07 May 2012
Are Smart Meters Wise?
With the aid of $138 million dollars from the federal government, CVPS and other electric companies throughout Vermont are replacing the old familiar electric meters, with their spinning aluminum discs and hard to read dials, with new electronic meters that are not only easier to read but can be read remotely by using radio frequency pulses sent out by the meters. CVPS will start replacing the old meters in Woodstock and surrounding towns starting some time this summer.
Electric companies like the new meters because they eliminate meter readers, and they allow the engineers managing the grid to do a better job of controlling grid construction costs by providing precise information on usage. In theory, end customers as well will eventually be able to do a better job of managing and reducing their use of electricity by using information displayed on in-home monitors and on the web.
Two kinds of information have been proposed: amount of power used by the customer, and how heavily loaded the grid is. When this information is combined with new and as yet undefined tariffs, customers may be able to shift their power use to a cheaper time of day, saving them and CVPS money. Details on how this is going to work aren’t yet available, however, and neither are examples of how well this approach has worked in other areas of the country and the world.
The aim of this effort, of course, is to reduce the amount of power we use and to reduce the cost of producing it. Critics, however, both here in Vermont and throughout the country, say that it’s fixing something that isn’t broke by replacing a simple meter with a complicated one costing several times as much, that it increases the amount of radio-frequency radiation that surrounds us, and that it opens up ways to misuse detailed personal information about us. Those who don’t want the new meters can opt-out of the program, but here in Vermont it will cost them $10 a month.
To provide an opportunity to discuss these points of view, Sustainable Woodstock is sponsoring a panel discussion on the pro and cons of what have been dubbed “smart meters.” Participating will be Windsor County Senator Dick McCormack, Woodstock-Reading Representative (and Sustainable Woodstock Board member) Alison Clarkson, CVPS chief meter engineer Rick Hackett, James Porter, Director of Telecommunications for the Vermont department of Public Service, and Kevin Jones, who has carried out a study of the impact of smart meters for Vermont Law School. The panel discussion, which is free and open to the public, will be held in the upstairs meeting room of Woodstock’s Town Hall, 34 The Green, on Thursday, May 10, between 7 pm and 9 pm.
Come, bring your questions and observations, and join in the discussion. For information call Sustainable Woodstock Director Sally Miller at 802-457-2911.
By Norwood Long