As more and more utilities start installing smart meters around the country, more and more groups line up to protest their use.
Bringing the controversy to the Midwest, a group of smart meter opponents in Naperville, Illinois circulated a petition to have a referendum placed on an upcoming ballot that would allow residents to vote on whether the city should install the meters, but it seems they got a lot of signatures from people not registered to vote in Naperville -- 124 to be exact. When it was submitted to the electoral board, it was rejected because of a lack of valid signatures. The group hired a lawyer and took the issue to court and last week Circuit Judge Bonnie Wheaton ruled that the Naperville Smart Meter Awareness Group didn't meet the petition requirements and their request for a referendum was denied.Naperville is set to install smart meters on all homes and businesses this year through its Smart Grid Initiative.
The Chicago Tribune reports that the Naperville group, like others before them, cited security, privacy and health concerns about the wireless meters. No health risks have been found for the devices that put out small amounts of radio frequency radiation when they transmit information just like cell phones, microwaves and computers. Many people are concerned about the cancer-causing potential of that radiation, but studies sponsored by PG&E, the California utility that has championed smart meters, have found that people would have to live with a smart meter for more than a thousand years to get the same amount of radio wave exposure as cell phone users get in a month.
Utilities in Maine and California that have come up against smart meter protesters have allowed customers to opt-out of wireless smart meter installations if they want. While that seems like a good compromise, it could affect the overall effectiveness of the smart grid if there are gaps in wireless smart meter coverage or a mixture of devices being used in an area. The success of the smart grid depends on being able to collect energy use information from all homes and businesses both to help users save energy and to help utilities to manage grid demand and respond to outages and other issues. If many people choose to opt out of smart meters, it could prevent the smart grid from being able to reach its full potential.