Selected tags: Smart Meters

Illinois Shows Clean Energy Leadership by Fast-Tracking the Smart Grid

SmartMeterIn a victory for Illinois residents and the environment, Commonwealth Edison Company (ComEdtoday formally proposed to the Illinois Commerce Commission an accelerated timetable for completing its deployment of four million smart meters. ComEd began installing smart meters last fall as part of the Energy Infrastructure and Modernization Act of 2011. With this proposal, the Illinois utility will complete its meter installation almost five years earlier than planned.

Modern, smart electricity meters are a key component of the smart grid. These devices help eliminate huge waste in the energy system, reduce overall and peak energy demand, and spur the adoption of clean, low-carbon energy resources, including wind and solar power. By enabling two-way, real-time communication, smart meters give every day energy users, small businesses, manufacturers, and farmers (and the electricity providers that serve them) the information they need to control their own energy use and reduce their electricity costs. Read More »

Posted in Clean Energy, Electricity Pricing, Energy Efficiency, Illinois, Renewable Energy, Smart Grid, Utility Business Models| Also tagged , | Comments closed

Is Clean Energy Technology Booming? Five Reasons It Is.

To see the full infographic, go to greentechmedia.com.

By: Benjamin Schneider

You may have heard about the recent 60 Minutes segment that inexplicably reported the cleantech sector was in steep decline. There are quite a few reports out there breaking down the many fallacies of that segment, with most correctly concluding the sector is not dead, it is in fact booming and evidence of that surging momentum is everywhere you look. Consider these five examples that show just how good things are for cleantech these days:

1.  The solar industry is booming.

The facts are unequivocal: the solar industry is alive and well. According to a new report and infographic released this week by Greentech Media Research and the Solar Energy Industry Association (SEIA), 2013 was a banner year. Read More »

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A Smart Approach To Smart Meters

John FinniganA new documentary about smart meters opens on September 5th called Take Back Your PowerThe film suggests that smart meters cause illness.  According to an August 12 USA Today story, the film’s director was inspired by a friend who became seriously ill after a smart meter was installed at his home.  Naturally, this type of personal experience might shape one’s view on smart meters, but correlation is not causation.

Electric utilities have installed over 38 million smart meters across the country and there “has never been a documented injury or health problem associated with such meters.”  According to the Federal Communication Commission (FCC), “no scientific evidence establishes a causal link between wireless device use and cancer or other illnesses.”

Smart meters send information to utilities by using radio frequencies (RFs) such as those currently used by televisions, radios, baby monitors, cell phones and wifi routers.  RF signals have permeated our atmosphere for as long as we’ve had televisions and radios.

We use these devices every day, and many of them create much higher levels of RF exposure than smart meters.  The exposure level depends on the strength of the RF signal emitted by the device, the duration of the RF signal and—importantly— the distance from the source.  Cell phones emit up to several thousand times more RF signals than smart meters.  Smart meters also transmit intermittently and briefly during the day, while we talk on cell phones for long periods.  Finally, smart meters are located outside the home, while cell phones are often used close to one’s head.

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Smart Meters Are Key To A Smart Grid

Cassandra Brunette is a research associate in EDF's Office of Chief Scientist.

Source: PG&E

A well-designed smart grid is critical to the clean energy revolution we need – enabling significantly greater use of clean, renewable, domestic energy resources and improved air quality to protect the health of millions of Americans now harmed by dangerous air pollution.

Smart meters are a key component of the smart grid.  They unlock air quality, climate pollution and public health benefits by enabling two-way, real-time communication that gives households, small businesses, manufacturers and farmers (and the utilities that serve them) the information they need to cut energy use and electricity costs.  These devices help ensure that every day energy users reap the many benefits of the smart grid.

However, as a recent PBS NewsHour report explained, some activist groups and individuals in areas where smart meters have been deployed have expressed concerns over exposure to radio frequencies (RFs) resulting from the use  of this technology.  EDF supports further research and opt-out programs for those concerned.  But what is missing from the PBS report is a clear account of the current, available scientific evidence on smart meters and health.  EDF uses the best available science in all of its programs, and our smart grid initiative is no exception.

I am a member of EDF’s science team out of the San Francisco Bay Area and have dug deep into the peer-reviewed literature on health effects of smart meters, as well as independent assessments by agencies and industry groups and reports from government agencies.  Here is what we know:

Research shows that every day humans come into contact with RFs from a wide variety of sources, including – but not limited to – wireless or cellular phones, microwaves, wireless internet routers, hair dryers, baby monitors and wireless laptops.  Each has varying levels of exposure that depend on the technology and – importantly – on distance from the source.

One example in our daily lives is the use of a cell phone.  A study by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) found that during a call, cell phones held at the ear generate exposure levels between 1000-5000 microwatts per square centimeter (µW/cm2).  In comparison, when transmitting, smart meters create exposure levels of approximately 8.8 µW/cm2.  And that’s if a person is standing right in front of the meter.  In homes and businesses, people are much farther away from their electric meter, so exposure levels are far lower.  This means that a cell phone call exposes a person to hundreds of times more RFs than a transmitting smart meter.  Moreover, smart meters only transmit signals roughly 2-5% of the day (approximately 30-70 minutes).

Source: CCST

The chart to the right (units in µW/cm2), from a report by the California Council on Science and Technology, puts smart meters in context with other RF emitting technologies.  Keep in mind that this chart compares smart meters at a hypothetical maximum exposure level with transmission occurring during 100% of the day.  Even at these hypothetical maximums, exposure from smart meters is significantly lower than other technologies already in use.

Assessments also show that impacts from RFs come in two forms, thermal (heat-related) and non-thermal.  The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) sets safety standards for thermal impacts.  Smart meter exposure levels fall well below the FCC’s limits for safety for thermal impacts.  As for non-thermal impacts, the cumulative impacts of low-dose, long-term exposure are uncertain.  To date, there is no scientific evidence of non-thermal impacts from smart meter RF emissions.  EDF supports continued research on any possible health impacts of all RF emitters, but given the current standard for thermal impacts and uncertainties of non-thermal impacts, there is no evidence that the public would benefit from additional standards.

EDF’s number one priority is environmental and public health safety.  We advocate for a “smart grid done right” to quote a message by EDF’s President Fred Krupp, and we are not alone in this effort.  Though the PBS NewsHour story references “environmentalists” broadly opposed to a smarter grid, EDF is one of many environmental organizations strongly advocating for grid modernization as the clear path to lessening our dependence on fossil fuels and moving us toward a clean, healthy, low-carbon energy system.  Our science team will continue thorough assessments of the best available science on this topic and our work with utilities, regulators and the smart grid industry to protect the environment and the health of customers.

For more information on the many benefits of the smart grid, please view EDF’s fact sheet here.

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California Follows Smart Meter Best Practice: Proactively Address Public Concerns

This commentary was originally posted on the EDF California Dream 2.0 Blog.

Energy powers our economy. But our outdated energy system is wasteful, expensive and a major source of pollution, leading to the deaths of approximately 60,000 Americans per year. Utilities in California and across the country are now investing billions of dollars to modernize that infrastructure, making use of the information technologies that have revolutionized so many other realms of our lives. The smart grid they're building will improve air quality and the health of millions of Americans affected by air so dirty it is often dangerous to breathe.

Smart meters are a key component of the smart grid. They unlock air quality, climate pollution and public health benefits by enabling two-way, real-time communication that gives households, small businesses, manufacturers and farmers (and the utilities that serve them) the data they need to cut energy use and electricity costs. These devices help ensure that every day energy users reap the many benefits of the smart grid.

Yesterday, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) approved a proposal by Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) that allows customers to keep their analog meters and opt out of using the new wireless smart meters. This decision is designed to address concerns of individuals who describe themselves as having electromagnetic hypersensitivity to radio frequencies (RF), and report getting headaches, fatigue, nausea and insomnia from exposure.

The radio frequencies used by smart meters are now pervasive in our lives, emitted by our cell phones, microwaves, baby monitors, and numerous other devices we use daily. To understand the potential health risks associated with use of these devices, EDF has completed a thorough review of the scientific literature on the potential effects of electromagnetic and radio frequencies (EMF/RF) on human health. We have reviewed reports from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the California Council of Science and Technology (CCST). We also consulted with outside experts, including Dr. Leeka Kheifets, a Professor in Residence at UCLA who sits on the Standing Committee on Epidemiology for the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection.

The WHO review states that “in the area of biological effects and medical applications of non-ionizing radiation, approximately 25,000 articles have been published over the past 30 years. Scientific knowledge in this area is now more extensive than for most chemicals.” These studies, it concludes, find that “current evidence does not confirm the existence of any health consequences from exposure to low level electromagnetic fields.”

The WHO assessment spotlights the importance of conducting rigorous scientific research to evaluate environmental and health problems, a core principle of EDF. Our policies are based on the best available science and are altered as necessary when new evidence comes to light.

This research helped inform EDF’s position that the limited RF exposure levels associated with smart meters should not result in reduced support for the smart grid, especially in light of the significant health benefits it will deliver by enabling far less use of fossil fuels and far greater reliance on clean, renewable energy, including small, community-based generation like rooftop solar PV.

Today’s ruling strikes the proper balance: sustaining progress toward a smart grid with its multiple public health benefits while addressing individuals’ concerns. It gives consumers the same type of choice about what technologies to use in their everyday life.

We support the PUC's decision and continuing research on the possible health effects of radio frequencies.

For more information on this topic, please see EDF President Fred Krupp’s memo on “Health and the smart grid.”

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