Thursday, October 7, 2010

NATIONAL ENERGY AWARENESS MONTH - The Smart Grid's Concerns and Solutions: Part 3

This is the final post of a 3-part series on the smart grid.  What it is and what it means for your family.

In Part 1 and Part 2 of this series we learned about what is the smart grid and how it can benefit you. Today's posting is about legitimate consumer concerns about the smart grid, which are largely related to smart meter installations.  Smart meters are a two-way communication device between your home and your utility company; through this two-way communication there are opportunities and concerns. Here are the main issues and some possible solutions  …
  • Privacy issues:  There are concerns about how much monitoring and control the utility will have of your home and its devices.  Solutions could include government privacy protections similar to credit card opt-in/out programs or like the restrictions placed on telephone companies.  For example, you could opt out of the utility controlling your household temperature but opt into selling power back to the utility from your plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (PHEV -- as was described in Part 2 of this series) or from solar panels on your roof.
  • Lack of choice: Currently, you are probably going to be assigned your utility and smart meter without the advantage of competition or the opportunity to say no.  Instead, you can advocate for provider and device choice, or perhaps no device at all (without penalty).  
  • EMF Exposure:  There are some public health concerns about exposing yourself to electromagnetic field (EMF) radiation from wireless smart meters, though some experts say the EMF from cell phones is much greater. Solutions include safety studies, the homeowner’s approval of where the device is installed, or taking advantage of meters hard-wired through fiber optic cables. 
  • Device costs: It would significantly add to your personal costs to buy the forthcoming new appliances and devices that are smart-meter compatible.  Currently, there are more personal energy savings with current energy-efficient appliances/devices and changing your energy usage behaviors, not counting PHEVs.
  • Job loss: With technology taking over, job losses are expected.  Solutions include job retraining or career-changing programs.

No matter how the concerns with smart meters are resolved, the other advantages are well worth it.  Let your city, lawmakers, and utility know what you think – and fast!  Because decisions about the smart grid and smart meters are rapidly being made.

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