‘Smart meters’ concern some Spartanburg residents
Duke Energy spokesman Ryan Mosier said the utility company has been upgrading older meters with digital “smart meters” to better meet the needs of customers with frequent service requests in high-density areas. But residents in several west side Spartanburg neighborhoods are concerned about the consequences of the change.
Julia Towe, who lives in the Camelot area, said she originally didn’t pay much attention to a notice about the switch. After talking to a neighbor, she researched the meters and was alarmed by some of what she found.
“It was one of those things where I looked at it at a glance, said, ‘oh, new meters,’ and put it aside,” she said. “They have apparently caused a lot of electrical problems, lots of fires.”
Mosier said the Duke Energy smart meters are not a fire hazard.
The new meters communicate with energy providers by using digital connections like cellular or radio waves. The meters don’t give Duke Energy control over the amount of energy used at a given time inside a resident’s home, according to the company website.
By next summer, Duke Energy will have installed nearly 579,000 smart meters in South Carolina, Mosier said.
Nearly 192,000 have been installed so far.
“There are many benefits to smart meters, including quicker outage detection and response and the availability of daily energy usage information that customers can access online to help manage their energy costs,” Mosier said. “This allows you to see much more detailed energy usage and billing information. Smart meters can also help us more quickly identify power outages and resolve other service requests and problems, typically without needing to visit your home or business.”
Ramona Ludvik lives in the Shannon Forest subdivision. She said she is unwilling to give up any more of her privacy for devices that might be unsafe.
“Americans have had to give up too much privacy already saying it is for our safety,” she said. “Having some electric company spying on what we are doing inside our own home is the final frontier for me and where I take a stand to say ‘no further.’ No one needs to know when I get up and put on the coffee pot or how many loads of laundry I do.”
The Public Service Commission of South Carolina approved an opt-out provision for the smart meters, Mosier said, but the option won’t be available until next year.
“Until then, any customer that wants to delay installation of the new meters until the opt-out is in place need only let us know when they are notified of the upcoming meter swap-out,” he said.
Danielle Tornone lives in Vanderbilt Hills near the Westgate Mall. She said she isn’t concerned about fires or hacking, but still doesn’t see the need for a meter change.
“If it’s not broken, why fix it,” she said.
The meters run on the same radio frequency signal as older meters and comply with safety and regulatory requirements, including Federal Communications Commission rules that set exposure limits for all types of devices that emit radio frequencies, Mosier said.
e said customers’ privacy is not at risk with the new digital meters.
“No customer-identifying information, such as names or addresses, is stored in the meters or transmitted across the network,” he said.
Concerns about the new meters spread quickly on the private neighborhood-based social network NextDoor.
There, residents of several neighborhoods shared blog posts about smart meter-related concerns across the U.S., Canada and Australia.
Some residents have contacted elected officials, including U.S. Sens. Lindsey Graham and Tim Scott, and U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy about their concerns, Towe said.
She said if she sees a Duke Energy technician installing a smart meter at her home, it won’t be taken lightly.
“People feel like this is being shoved down their throats and you shouldn’t have risk shoved down your throat,” she said.