“Smart” electric meters slammed at Kingston PSC hearing

Published on Feb 5, 2015

“Smart” electric meters slammed at Kingston PSC hearing

Hundreds of residents crammed Kingston City Hall Wednesday night, to criticize the introduction of “smart” electric meters to New York’s energy grid. Their remarks were part of a hearing process hosted by the New York Public Service Commission.

Officials said the Kingston meeting turnout and duration exceeded recent hearings held in both Buffalo and New York City.

Opponents argue that the newfangled utility meters produce electromagnetic pollution, which may sicken residents, and the microwaves they emit when transmitting data are carcinogenic. Smart meters are required for home solar power arrays.

But industry contends that the smart meters are crucial to improving the grid, making it more flexible, responsive, and reliable.

“Reforming the Energy Vision” (REV) is PSC’s initiative to address a power sector in flux, to meet modern needs regarding new technologies, aging infrastructure, climate change, and resource allocation.

All these factors are leading to “significant changes in how energy is produced, managed and consumed,” the PSC contends. Particularly, the cost of solar power has dropped, calling into question the need for centralized power plants.

Smart meters currently serve as the gateway to integrating a wave of newcomers to the electric utility playing field.

Almost 4 hours of comment followed an hour-long presentation delivered by PSC staff, with jargon rich in acronyms. Track One of REV considers the establishment of an independent Distributed System Platform (DSP) provider to regulate integration of various Distributed Energy Resources (DER). into the overall grid.

A DER can be a utility company, home rooftop solar panel, a tidal power generator, or community wind farm. Decentralized power breaks the electric utility monopoly, reducing regional players like Central Hudson to just another DER to be interconnected via DSP.

Essentially, the PSC wishes to take control of the “grid,” from the franchises which currently control it, and make it into a separate entity called DER.

Track Two of REV involves drafting the new legislation and regulations to implement the initiative into policy and law.

“Those so-called smart meters are not smart and they’re very dangerous, so please don’t dismiss the voices of the anti-smart meter movement,” said Dutchess County legislator Joel Tyner (D-Clinton), citing Dr. David Carpenter’s 2012 Bio-Initiative Report. He also advocated Community Choice Aggregation (CCA), and 100% renewable energy policy.

Ulster County Legislator MannaJo Greene (D-Rosendale) noted the difference between CCA and CCA 2.0. “CCA version 1 simply aggregates our energy purchasing power,” she explained. “CCA 2.0 includes comprehensive planning to bring more renewable energy infrastructure and efficiency into this region, on an accelerated schedule with increased local control,” including opt-outs, she said. Greene also recommended that REV exclude nuclear energy. “It is a very dangerous and soon to be outmoded form,” she said.

“This is one of the themes which we’ve heard everywhere we’ve traveled,” observed PSC panelist Eleanor Stein, “which is a tremendous interest by communities in taking control over their energy use, and how they do it, particularly with the view to increasing the amount of renewables within the system.” She predicted that the Hudson Valley will become “an absolute hotbed of distributed energy & local power.”

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