Health, Risk & Society
Smart meters and public acceptance: comparative analysis and governance implications
David J. Hessa*
- Received: 23 Jun 2013
- Accepted: 21 Jan 2014
- Published online: 29 Apr 2014
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Although smart meters for electricity have received widespread acclaim as a means to achieve more resilient and sustainable electricity consumption, public opposition has emerged in several countries. In this article, I examine the reasons for public opposition in North America and the role of concern with health risks. The article provides an analysis of reasons given for opposing smart meters by 75 US and Canadian organisations listed in the 2013 EMF (electromagnetic field) Safety Network, a review of all news reports (499) in the Lexis-Nexis database relating to smart meters in seven US states and one Canadian province from 2010 to 2013 and case studies of policy responses in the same seven states and province. Thirty-one of the organisations in the EMF network focused mainly on health concerns about EMFs, and 44 organisations identified broader concerns as well as health risks. The more politically conservative groups focused on issues relating to privacy and government intrusion. Newspaper reports also identified health risks, although they also identified issues relating to cost overruns and privacy. The study of newspaper reporting in the seven US states and one Canadian province indicated that relevant agencies had responded to public concerns by developing opt-out provisions for meter installation, in some cases after protracted public campaigns. I consider possible patterns of opposition for future investigation: opposition may be higher where the roll-out of smart meters is rapid and without an opt-out provision; technological differences (for example, wired versus wireless) may contribute to levels of public opposition; and challengers to incumbent parties of either the right or left may also contribute to public opposition. In the ‘Conclusion’ section, I compare two policy strategies, one of which views public opposition as a lack of good communication from utilities, and the other which views it as an opportunity for innovation in systems design and improvements in governance policies.
Download full paper at: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/13698575.2014.911821#preview