Activists fight switch to ‘smart’ electric meters
Local citizen activists concerned about health and privacy are joining other groups across the state in opposing plans by utilities such as Orange & Rockland to roll out smart electric meters and gas modules.
O&R is currently replacing roughly 113,000 electric meters and 42,500 gas modules across Orange and Sullivan counties with wireless digital meters that can be read remotely.
Central Hudson Gas & Electric, which supplies electricity and natural gas to parts of Orange, Ulster and Sullivan counties, also has encountered resistance as it installs smart meters, which emit low-level radio waves that concern some citizens.
Environmental consultant Deborah Kopald of Highlands is among those behind the Orange County effort, which includes the New York Safe Utility Meter Association and Stop Smart Meters Woodstock New York.
Kopald has petitioned the state Public Service Commission to vacate a decision to let O&R roll out the smart meters, and to compel the state to hold a public hearing for feedback on the issue.
Smart-meter opponents want O&R to let citizens use analog meters and to not charge them to opt out.
Ulster County activists recently succeeded in getting the commission to require Central Hudson to not charge an opt-out fee.
“People should have a guaranteed analog option that doesn’t emit radio frequency radiation, and there shouldn’t be a charge for people to be able to opt out and not use it, ” Kopald said.
Activists’ concerns include:
‒ Exposure to radio frequency radiation from meters
‒ Privacy issues, because some smart meter data can, under certain circumstances, be used to discern what customers were doing in their homes based on electric usage patterns
‒ Cyber threats via hacking as more meters, appliances and the electric grid increasingly connect to the internet.
O&R spokesman Michael Donovan said the smart meters don’t collect customers’ identifying information or usage data on individual appliances.
He said they’re accurate and efficient, and the company follows robust cybersecurity standards.
He cited examples of how smart meters could ultimately lower customers’ bills in the future.
“Many scientific studies have found no evidence that smart meters present any particular health risk, ” Donovan said.
“Compared to other common devices such as cellphones, Wi-Fi routers, and baby monitors, smart meters transmit radio frequency at extremely low signal strength.”