Quick Take: Smart meters may soon replace alien invasions and Obama's birth certificate as the nation's most popular conspiracy theory. Are you ready if it hits your service territory? – Jesse Berst
"Is your home's energy meter spying on you?" screams a headline from FoxNews.com. It calls smart meters a "Pandora's box of privacy concerns," citing concerns from the American Civil Liberties Union.
To be fair, even the U.S. Department of Energy admits that smart meters could "reveal personal details about the lives of consumers, such as their daily schedules (including times when they are at or away from home or asleep), whether their homes are equipped with alarm systems, whether they own expensive electronic equipment such as plasma TVs, and whether they use certain types of medical equipment."
And according to Fox News, California's Pacific Gas & Electric Company was required to pay $390,000 to the state's general fund last year for spying on anti-smart meter activists.
Even so, "privacy zealots obsess over something that wouldn't concern a rational person," said Roger Pilon of the Cato Institute to Fox News. "It's the kind of mass hysteria we'd seen in other eras for other issues."
And the hysteria is spreading
Whether it is rational or not, the smart meter backlash continues to spread. Consider these recent examples:
- Michigan. DTE Energy has installed 1.5 million smart meters. MyFoxDetroit.com just ran a story detailing smart meter concernsin Michigan and beyond.
- Oklahoma. Oklahoma Gas & Electric has one of the nation's most admired smart meter rollouts. Nonetheless, some Oklahoma families continue to fight to have them removed because of health concerns. Oklahoma City's News Channel Four reportsthe Oklahoma Corporation Commission will soon hear a complaint from a customer who has been diagnosed with "electromagnetic hypersensitivity disorder." Meanwhile, other OG&E customers are pushing for an opt-out clause for those who don't want smart meters on their home.
- Maryland. Baltimore Gas and Electric is moving to smart meters. The move has been controversial in Harford County, according to the Baltimore Sun, with many residents calling them "an invasion of privacy." Other critics have cited health concerns. The controversy continues despite BGE's opt-out program, which allows customers to preserve an analog meter.
- Florida. A consumer advocate from station WSVM is trying to help customers of Florida Power & Light find a way to reject smart meters. According to the station, one resident blames a new smart meter for causing a fire in her home. Others believe smart meters are dangerous to their health. But those who are choosing to opt out are now complaining about the $95 enrollment fee and the extra $13 a month.
- Ontario. "Suspicions die hard in smart meter debate" is the headline of a recent story from Ontario's The Star. Ontario has spent $1 billion to install smart meters at every home. You cannot opt out of smart meters in Ontario. One thing that has customers suspicious is a series of billing problems at Hydro One.