Environment Report: Lawsuit Targets Smart Water Meters

Environment Report: Lawsuit Targets Smart Water Meters

Activists are trying to make San Diego Gas & Electric a greener company, the Surfrider Foundation proposes a ban on Styrofoam and more in our biweekly roundup of environmental news.

Last week, San Diego’s water department got hit with a lawsuit over how it’s paying to install 280,000 new “smart” meters across the city

The lawsuit is based on Proposition 218, one of California’s strict anti-tax laws.

The new meters are eventually supposed to eliminate the need for meter readers by automatically sending water use data to the city, but the program has been delayed, in part by other funding issues.

The suit is a class action filed by San Diego-based attorney Paul Neuharth Jr. and Seattle-based attorney Robert Teel on behalf of Miller Marks, a San Diego resident and sewer customer. It alleges the department is mixing two pots of money that are supposed be separated to find the $67 million needed to install the meters. The first pot comes from the city’s drinking water customers. The second pot comes from the city’s sewer customers.

For the most part, these two groups overlap — if you get water, you have sewage. But the city also treats sewage for more than a dozen neighboring cities and water agencies. Money from those cities also ends up in the second pot.

The lawsuit claims sewer customers from across the region are paying for water meters in the city for no good reason. The lawsuit was first reported by NBC San Diego.

The lawsuit also alludes to the relatively large reserves that the city has had in its sewer fund for years — several hundred million dollars, enough to fund about two years of operations.

The lawsuit has a long way to go, but it’s based in part on worries from members of the city’s Independent Rates Oversight Committee.

The oversight committee’s chairman, Gordon Hess, has also wondered if the city can justify splitting the cost of the meter installations evenly, because city water meters are read six times a year to determine city customers’ water bills but only two of those readings are used to calculate sewer rates. If the meters are used less than half the time to calculate sewer rates, why should sewer customers pay half the cost of new meters?

Before the lawsuit was filed, water department spokesman Jerry McCormick said there was “no formal study” that justifies the way the city is paying for the program, but the department could still defend its decision to split the costs. He said the funding deal was made in consultation with the city attorney’s office and there are benefits to sewer customers from new meters that “may not be immediately apparent,” like coming up with detailed models of how the sewer system is used, which can help operations.

More Direct Democracy

Back when the city was considering a series of water rate increases in 2015, we wrote about Proposition 218 and how city water customers could protest the rate increase. If a majority protested, a rate increase would be stopped in its tracks.

There’s a similar arrangement in San Diego Gas & Electric’s deal to operate within city limits. Environmentalists are hoping to use the negotiations of a new deal to force SDG&E to quickly become a greener company.

But voters have their own power. In the 1970 agreement the power company signed with the city, voters are allowed to revoke or amend the agreement on their own at any election.

https://www.voiceofsandiego.org/topics/science-environment/environment-report-lawsuit-targets-smart-water-meters/

Verify: Will new bill force Missourians to get ‘smart’ electricity meter?

Verify: Will new bill force Missourians to get ‘smart’ electricity meter

On Monday, members of the House will discuss legislation to cap how electric rates are set, in return for an upgrade to the power grid.

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Changes could be coming to how you pay for utility bills in Missouri.

On Monday, members of the House will discuss legislation to cap how electric rates are set, in return for an upgrade to the power grid.

Senate Bill 564 passed out of the Senate and now will be debated in the house.

One of those upgrades could include smart meters allowing utilities to read meters remotely. But there seems to be some confusion as to what this will mean for families.

Alyssa Drinkard, 22, suffers from hypersensitivity to lights. The symptoms set in following a car crash four years ago. Her condition bans her from being around bright lights and using things like Wi-Fi and wireless phones. She also wouldn’t be able to have a smart meter in her house and she’s worried this bill will force her to upgrade.

“It wouldn’t be livable. The symptoms that I would be having, the heart palpations, it’s not like you can turn it off at night, flip a switch and go to sleep,” said Drinkard.

But the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Ed Emery, R-Lamar, said that’s not true. He said the bill would not force people to get smart meters.

He said there’s an opt-out and that the cost would not be much more a month. He also said the rates would be decided by the Public Service Commission.

How smartphones are heating up the planet: Experts warn the devices will contribute to 125 MEGATONS of carbon dioxide emissions by 2020

How smartphones are heating up the planet: Experts warn the devices will contribute to 125 MEGATONS of carbon dioxide emissions by 2020

  • Smartphone users are contributing to global warming, too, a new report says
  • PCs, monitors, laptops and tablets also contribute to the problem
  • A McMaster University professor is arguing that the issue should be tackled now
  • Professor Lotfi Belkhir suggests making data centers run on renewable energy
  • His argument was published in an essay on The Conversation 

When we think about climate change, the main sources of carbon emissions that come to mind for most of us are heavy industries like petroleum, mining and transportation.

Rarely do we point the finger at computer technologies.

In fact, many experts view the cyber-world of information and computer technologies (ICT) as our potential savior, replacing many of our physical activities with a lower-carbon virtual alternative.

That is not what our study, recently published in the Journal of Cleaner Production, suggests.

McMaster University Professor Lotfi Belkhir has argued that smartphones, computers, tablets, PCs and monitors are  heating up the earth. Among other suggestions, Professor Belkhir said that it is important to make all data centers run on renewable energy (file photo)

(McMaster University Professor Lotfi Belkhir has argued that smartphones, computers, tablets, PCs and monitors are heating up the earth. Among other suggestions, Professor Belkhir said that it is important to make all data centers run on renewable energy (file photo)

Having conducted a meticulous and fairly exhaustive inventory of the contribution of ICT – including devices like PCs, laptops, monitors, smartphones and tablets – and infrastructure like data centers and communication networks, we found that the relative contribution of ICT to the total global footprint is expected to grow from about one percent in 2007 to 3.5 percent by 2020 and reach 14 percent by 2040.

That’s more than half the relative contribution of the entire transportation sector worldwide.

Another disconcerting finding is that all this extraordinary growth is mostly incremental, essentially shattering the hope that ICT will help reduce the global carbon footprint by substituting physical activities with their virtual counterparts.

The impact of smartphones

Perhaps the most surprising result of our study was the disproportionate contribution of smartphones relative to the overall ICT footprint.

We found that the relative emissions share of smartphones is expected to grow from four percent in 2010 to 11 percent by 2020, dwarfing the individual contributions of PCs, laptops and computer displays.

In absolute values, emissions caused by smartphones will jump from 17 to 125 megatons of CO2 equivalent per year (Mt-CO2e/yr) in that time span, or a 730 percent growth.

The lion’s share of this footprint (85 to 95 percent) will be caused not by the use of the device, but rather by its production. That includes, in addition to the manufacturing energy, the energy for material mining for gold and the so-called rare-earth elements like yttrium, lanthanium and several others that today are almost exclusively available from China.

Another guilty participant in this excessive carbon footprint are the phone plans that encourage users to get a new smartphone every two years.

That accelerates the rate at which older models become obsolete and leads to an extraordinary and unnecessary amount of waste.

These findings pertain to the device side.

Every text, download, email uses server energy 

On the infrastructure side, we predict the combined footprint of data centers and communications networks will grow from 215 megatons of C02 equivalent a year (Mt-CO2e/yr) in 2007 to 764 MtCO2-e/yr by 2020, with data centers accounting for about two-thirds of the total contribution.

Professor Belkhir also said that, on an individual level, it would help if people recycled their smartphones when purchasing a new one. He cited alarming research claiming that only one percent of smartphones are recycled (file photo)

Professor Belkhir also said that, on an individual level, it would help if people recycled their smartphones when purchasing a new one. He cited alarming research claiming that only one percent of smartphones are recycled (file photo)

For comparison purposes, the entire carbon footprint of Canada was about 730 MtCO2-e in 2016 and is expected to decrease by 2020.

The growth in smartphones and data centers aren’t unrelated.

Indeed, it’s the dizzying growth in mobile communications that’s largely driving the pace for data centers. For every text message, video download, photo exchange, email or chat, there’s a 24/7 power-hungry server in some data center that’s making it happen.

It’s the energy consumption that we don’t see.

Software companies spur growth

Finally, and perhaps the most ironic aspect of all this, is that it’s software that is driving the overall growth in ICT as a whole, devices and infrastructure included.

Software companies like Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft and Yahoo boast some of the largest data centers in the world. The rise in dominance of the mobile operating systems, namely Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android, along with the millions of mobile applications that are built on top of those platforms, has spawned the mobile communication age.

The incredible – as well as unsustainable – growth in the emission footprint of all this hardware is there for only one purpose: to support and serve the software universe.

ARE YOU ONE OF THE NEARLY 50% OF SMARTPHONE USERS ADDICTED TO THEIR HANDSET?

Worrying research published in December 2017 revealed we reach for our smartphones around 4,000 times a year for no apparent reason.

Each day we unlock our phone 28 times – and over a third of the time this is compulsive and unnecessary.

The apps we crave most are Facebook, followed by WhatsApp, Gmail and Instagram, the survey found.

Experts from Malta-based online casino Casumo.com looked at 2,000 UK smartphone users in order to find out whether checking their device was out of habit or necessity.

The average American clicks, taps or swipes on their smartphone screen more than 2,600 times a day, with some reaching an astonishing 5,400 times

The average American clicks, taps or swipes on their smartphone screen more than 2,600 times a day, with some reaching an astonishing 5,400 times

They found more than 40 percent of the 10,000 times users check smartphones each year is ‘compulsive’.

The top ten percent of users check their phones more than 60 times a day.

More than one in three people think they are addicted to checking their phone with the average user spending nearly an hour each day on their phone.

The survey also found Google Maps is considered the most useful app while WhatsApp and Gmail come second and third.

Google Chrome is fourth and Facebook comes in fifth.

In other words, while it’s the hardware that does all the dirty work, it’s the software that’s calling all the shots.

The way out?

At the societal level, we must demand that all data centers run exclusively on renewable energy.

At the individual level: Hold on to your smartphone for as long as you can, and, when you do upgrade, make sure you recycle your old one. Sadly, only one percent of smartphones are being recycled today.

This article was originally published by The Conversation.

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-5547227/Experts-warn-smartphones-contribute-125-MEGATONS-emissions-2020.html#ixzz5AyfsHTCS
Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

 

How smartphones are heating up the planet

How smartphones are heating up the planet

When we think about climate change, the main sources of carbon emissions that come to mind for most of us are heavy industries like petroleum, mining and transportation.

Rarely do we point the finger at computer technologies.

In fact, many experts view the cyber-world of information and computer technologies (ICT) as our potential saviour, replacing many of our physical activities with a lower-carbon virtual alternative.

That is not what our study, recently published in the Journal of Cleaner Production, suggests.

Having conducted a meticulous and fairly exhaustive inventory of the contribution of ICT —including devices like PCs, laptops, monitors, smartphones and tablets — and infrastructure like data centres and communication networks, we found that the relative contribution of ICT to the total global footprint is expected to grow from about one per cent in 2007 to 3.5 per cent by 2020 and reaching 14 per cent by 2040.

That’s more than half the relative contribution of the entire transportation sector worldwide.

Another disconcerting finding is that all this extraordinary growth is mostly incremental, essentially shattering the hope that ICT will help reduce the global carbon footprint by substituting physical activities with their virtual counterparts.

The impact of smartphones

Perhaps the most surprising result of our study was the disproportionate contribution of smartphones relative to the overall ICT footprint.

We found that the relative emissions share of smartphones is expected to grow from four per cent in 2010 to 11 per cent by 2020, dwarfing the individual contributions of PCs, laptops and computer displays.

In absolute values, emissions caused by smartphones will jump from 17 to 125 megatons of CO2 equivalent per year (Mt-CO2e/yr) in that time span, or a 730 per cent growth.

The lion’s share of this footprint (85 to 95 per cent) will be caused not by the use of the device, but rather by its production. That includes, in addition to the manufacturing energy, the energy for material mining for gold and the so-called rare-earth elements like yttrium, lanthanium and several others that today are almost exclusively available only from China.

Want to help combat climate change? Stop replacing your phone every two years.(Shutterstock)

Another guilty participant in this excessive carbon footprint are the phone plans that encourage users to get a new smartphone every two years. That accelerates the rate at which older models become obsolete and leads to an extraordinary and unnecessary amount of waste.

These findings pertain to the device side.

Every text, download, email uses server energy

On the infrastructure side, we predict the combined footprint of data centres and communications networks will grow from 215 megatons of C02 equivalent a year (Mt-CO2e/yr) in 2007 to 764 MtCO2-e/yr by 2020, with data centres accounting for about two thirds of the total contribution.

Data centres are an increasing source of carbon emissions. (Shutterstock)

For comparison purposes, the entire carbon footprint of Canada was about 730 MtCO2-e in 2016 and is expected to decrease by 2020.

The growth in smartphones and data centres aren’t unrelated.

Indeed, it’s the dizzying growth in mobile communications that’s largely driving the pace for data centres. For every text message, video download, photo exchange, email or chat, there’s a 24/7 power-hungry server in some data centre that’s making it happen.

It’s the energy consumption that we don’t see.

Software companies spur growth

Finally, and perhaps the most ironic aspect of all this, is that it’s software that is driving the overall growth in ICT as a whole, devices and infrastructure included.

Software companies like Google, Facebook, Amazon, Microsoft and Yahoo boast some of the largest data centres in the world. The rise in dominance of the mobile operating systems, namely Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android, along with the millions of mobile applications that are built on top of those platforms, has spawned the mobile communication age.

The incredible —as well as unsustainable— growth in the emission footprint of all this hardware is there for only one purpose: To support and serve the software universe.

In other words, while it’s the hardware that does all the dirty work, it’s the software that’s calling all the shots.

The way out?

At the societal level, we must demand that all data centres run exclusively on renewable energy.

At the individual level: Hold on to your smartphone for as long as you can, and when you do upgrade, make sure you recycle your old one. Sadly, only one per cent of smartphones are being recycled today.

https://theconversation.com/how-smartphones-are-heating-up-the-planet-92793

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