Residents Fight Installation of Smart Meters on Homes
By Catherine Dominguez | Posted: Friday, October 21, 2011 12:00 am
As electric providers across the nation continue to deploy smart meters to customers, some residents believe the meters violate their constitutional rights.
Ginger Russell, a Magnolia resident, said she does not want a smart meter on her home and is concerned about privacy and health issues associated with the meters.
After CenterPoint canceled a town hall meeting with residents, Russell said she and other homeowners will protest at CenterPoint’s Greens Point Service Center, located at 2301 W. Gears Road, at 6:30 p.m. Monday.
“I had already notified people about the meeting so I have turned it into a protest,” she said. “That way I can hand out information to people. It’s a big mess.”
Russell had requested CenterPoint host a town hall meeting because it would have been more beneficial to residents. She said the utility set a date for the meeting but canceled it.
“They read on my Facebook page that we had questions about privacy and it being a violation of the Fourth Amendment,” she said. “(They) called and said, ‘We can’t answer questions in regard to the Fourth Amendment.”
Russell said she sent an email to CenterPoint telling the company the residents wouldn’t ask about the privacy issues, but the company still declined to take part in the meeting.
Alicia Dixon, spokeswoman for CenterPoint, said the company has been addressing customer concerns.
“We have been answering and will continue to answer good-faith questions about smart meters in a variety of formats – emails, phone calls, letters, community events and presentations, website information and FAQs, brochures and other literature, online chats, etc,” Dixon said in a statement.
Smart meters are part of the Smart Grid technologies and, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, “will be a critical long-term component of a more interactive, robust, and efficient electricity generation, transmission and usage system. Moreover, the advanced, state-of-the-art electrical grid that these technologies will create will be an important component of an overall national energy, economic, and security strategy …”
According to information from CenterPoint, the company’s Energy InSight smart meter system features digital meters with two-way communications.
The meters are able to send and receive information to and from consumers and CenterPoint. CenterPoint Energy can read these meters remotely.
The meters measure usage in 15-minute intervals, and the data is transmitted from the meters to cell relays, which are wireless devices installed on power distribution poles. Cell relays pick up signals from meters in the vicinity and transmit the data via radio to a central location that is collecting the data from a several-mile radius. The information then is delivered via microwave or fiber-optic cable to CenterPoint Energy’s data center, where computing systems gather and process 96 daily reads per meter.
Russell said she and several neighbors have refused the installation of the meters.
“There is no law, but the residents are told there is one and that if they do not take the meter their power can be cut of,” she said.
As of September, there had been 27 million smart meters installed across the nation by several utility companies. According to the DOE, 65 million smart meters will be installed in the United States by 2015.
The DOE released a report in October 2010 addressing the privacy concerns of the smart meters. In the report, it states, “… advances in Smart Grid technology could significantly increase the amount of potentially available information about personal energy consumption. Such information could reveal personal details about the lives of consumers, such as their daily schedules (including times when they are at or away from home or asleep), whether their homes are equipped with alarm systems, whether they own expensive electronic equipment such as plasma TVs, and whether they use certain types of medical equipment.”
However, the report also states the data “continues to be of importance to utilities for operational purposes and to achieve the important national goals … that Smart Grid technologies will advance.”
Russell said she is still not comfortable with the company’s ability to gather that data on customers.
“People don’t realize what’s going on,” she said. “That’s a lot of personal information available, and I don’t really care for them to know what I’m doing in my house.”