Calls For A Third Party Smart Meter Study

Pacific Gas and Electric Company has been facing a number of challenges in its attempts to roll out Smart Meter technology throughout California.  Advocates of the technology promote the meters as an essential component in realizing energy efficiency goals. Opponents have raised concerns about the accuracy and privacy of the meters and are increasingly raising concerns about public health and safety issues. The meters use wireless electromagnetic signals that provide real-time readings. Some customers complain that the new meters are causing them to be over-charged, yet it seems inevitable that there should be some discrepancy when moving from an older less precise system to a newer more responsive one.

However, the privacy and health and safety arguments represent much more complex and nuanced issues. The technology used by the meters is not much different than that used for cell phones or a myriad other everyday devices. However, under the current deployment of the meters, there is no ‘opt-out’ proviso, meaning that those who raise concerns over the meters are not left with a choice. Thus, it is not just a cut-and-dried matter of accuracy, but also a stickier problem of public perception, personal choice and the questioning of the adequacy of the Federal Communication Commissions’ safety standards by local communities. For example, it was widely reported this week the Town of Fairfax issued an emergency ordinance that will put a six month moratorium on the installation of the meters citing accuracy, privacy and safety concerns.

According to an article in the San Rafael Patch, San Rafael Assemblyman Jared Huffman who represents Marin and Southern Sonoma County (including the Town of Fairfax) has called for an independent review by the California Council on Science and Technology to determine the adequacy of FCC standards and provide more substantial science to the debate.  Huffman commented “If the FCC standards are deemed adequate, then the SmartMeter program can move forward with greater public confidence in the safety of the devices,” Huffman said.  “If the standards are inadequate, we need to know that so that we can get to work on better standards.”

Read more about Fairfax’s decision here, and listen to KQED’s coverage here.

Lots of Bay Area News

U.S. Representative and  House Appropriator Mike Honda secured funding to the tune of $2 million towards extension of the BART system to Silicon Valley as part of the FY 2011 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development spending bill. What is the “BART to Silicon Valley” project? It’s an extension of the existing BART system to Milpitas, San Jose, and Santa Clara starting from the future Warm Springs station in Fremont (along the eastern side of the South Bay).

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Google Energy has signed its first contract, a 20-year wind power contract in Iowa. Google will sell the electricity on the spot market and retire the associated renewable energy credits (RECs) – via TechCrunch.

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More people are freaking out about smart meters, but this time not in the Central Valley…

The Fairfax Town Council gave the nod to the creation of an ordinance that, if passed, would try to prevent PG&E from installing smart meters in Fairfax –  via the Marin Independent Journal.

The Marin Association of Realtors has issued a statement calling for a moratorium on its SmartMeter program due to concerns in three areas: concerns about overcharging, concerns about health effects from the radio waves, and concerns about PG&E imposing meters on folks that don’t want them – via the Marin Independent Journal.

The Marin Independent Journal also reports that the Marin supervisors have sent a letter to Michael Peevey, president of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), asking the CPUC to suspend PG&E’s SmartMeter rollout until a commission has reviewed the funtion of the meters and until the health implications of the electronic emissions from the wireless devices has been addressed…

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The Department of Energy announced yesterday that $122 million has been awarded to a team of scientists from California (including Lawrence Berkley National Lab) to establish an Energy Innovation Hub that will be focused on converting sunlight into liquid fuel.

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