Center for Safer Wireless
Promoting Safety in Our Wireless World

Smart Meters
                                                                                                                                       Smart meter protest in front of Pepco headquarters, March 1, 2012
                                                                                                                                                                                            Washington, DC

What is a Smart Meter?
A smart meter is an advanced meter that can identify consumption of a utility product  and communicates this information to a utility for monitoring and billing. 
Transmitting smart meters are being installed nationwide on gas, water, and electrical services, driven in part by funding for the Smart Grid Program approved as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Smart meters enable consumers to go online and see how their energy consumption changes as they turn off lights, turn down their heat or make other energy saving measures. They can operate with wireless microwave radiation, broadband over powerlines, or wired communications. Most smart meters deployed in the United States are wireless.

These meters are attached to a home or office just like your current electric meter.  A stand alone smart meter complies with Federal Communications Commission (FCC) safety standards, but tests have shown that multiple smart meters operating under certain circumstances exceed FCC guidelines, according to a report by Sage Associates. Smart meters operate at 900 MHz frequency, at microwave radiation levels, which adds to your exposure of radiofrequency radiation in your home.  Pacific Gas and Electric reported that smart meters in their system sent as many as 190,000 messages within 24 hours.   San Diego Gas and Electric Company (SDGE) reported in response to a request from an Administrative Judge that smart meters installed by SDGE transmit messages on average 1270 times per day and at a maximum 25,920 times each day.[1]
Privacy Concerns
During the second phase of smart grid implementation, homes will have a home area network (HAN), which transmits electric usage information, except for Dominion Power in Virginia. New appliances will be equipped with "smart" chips designed to record and transmit when you began using the appliance, how long, and when you stopped using it.  This information will be communicated via the Home Area Network using microwave radiation to the smart meter. The smart meter will communicate the data to your neighbor's smart meter and so on in a microwave radiation spider web until it reaches a collector meter. The collection meter transmits all of the neighborhood usage data so that it eventually reaches the utility.
According to a February 2012 Congressional Research Service Report, the Department of Energy reported that by matching data with known appliance load signatures, smart meters will be able to reveal people’s daily schedules, their appliances and electronic equipment, and whether they use certain types of medical equipment. [2] Utilities will have the data to discern the behavior of occupants in their home over a period of time. This mandatory device on our homes will track more private information than a GPS affixed to a criminal’s car, even though the US Supreme Court Case recently determined that a warrant was needed in the GPS case.  The Electronic Privacy Information Center cites a list of potential privacy consequences of Smart Grid Systems including, identity theft, activity censorship, profiling, tracking behavior of renters/leasers, and real-time surveillance.
Health Concerns
Smart meters have caused health problems throughout the US.  In May 2011, the World Health Organization determined that radiofrequency electromagnetic fields emitted from wireless devices are a class 2B possible human carcinogen, in the same class as lead, DDT, and chloroform.  The American Academy of Environmental Medicine opposes the installation of wireless smart meters based on the current medical literature.  People across the United States with AMI smart meters on their homes are reporting ringing in the ears, insomnia, strong headaches, nausea, heart palpitations, memory loss, anxiety and pain which began occurring after smart meters were installed. For someone who has electrosensitivity, smart meters contribute to the adverse health effects of this condition. 
Since smart meters are a new technology, there is no scientific literature about the health risks of these devices.  But in a memo about smart meters from Poki Stewart Namkung, M.D. Health Officer at the Santa Cruz Health Services Agency to the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors, Dr. Namkung stated, “evidence is accumulating on the results of exposure to RF at non-thermal levels including increased permeability of the blood-brain barrier in the head (Eberhardt 2008), harmful effects on sperm, double strand breaks in DNA which could lead to cancer genesis (Phillips, 2011), stress gene activation indicating an exposure to a toxin (Blank, 2011), and alterations in brain glucose metabolism (Volkow, 2011).”

Wireless smart meters are capable of interfering with implanted medical devices. According to Gary R. Olhoeft, SBEE and SMEE (MIT) and Ph.D. (Physics, University of Toronto), and current Professor of Geophysics at Colorado School of Mines, smart meters can interfere with sensitive medical implants such as deep brain stimulators for Parkinson’s disease and pacemakers. He has experienced this type of interference and set up his home to minimize RF exposure. During a Black Hat security conference in August 2011, a security researcher who has diabetes demonstrated on stage how a third party can transmit wireless commands to remotely disable his insulin pump. The pump accepted and followed commands from any wireless source. 

Security Concerns
On the CNN program CyberAttack broadcast in 2010, the show revealed threats from hacking and terrorism to the smart grid. These concerns are also documented by the Department of Homeland Security and the National Security Agency.  Former CIA Director James Woolsey accounted the wireless security threat at
In the May 2012, US government agencies will be authorized to operate drones for surveillance. Any wireless communications, including smart meters, are vulnerable to monitoring by drones.   Moreover, in the fall of 2015, privately operated drones will be authorized by the United States government to operate.  
Exceeding FCC Guidelines
In a report issued by Sage and Associates on January 1, 2011, under certain computer modeling testing situations, multiple smart meters' RF emissions may exceed Federal Communications Commission guidelines.   The possible FCC violations were determined based on both time-averaged and peak power limits  According to the report, "FCC compliance violations are likely to occur under normal conditions of installation and operation of smart meters and collector meters in California.  Violations of FCC safety limits for uncontrolled public access are identified at distances within 6” of the meter.  Exposure to the face is possible at this distance, in violation of the time-weighted average safety limits."
List of Organizations and Legal Initiatives Opposing Smart Meters Across the United States
People across the United States don't want smart meters on their homes. There are organizations in almost every state fighting this deployment. Maryland Smart Meter Awareness and Stop Smart Meters are some of the groups who are spreading awareness and gaining opt rights.
What You Can Do
If you do not have a transmitting wireless smart meter on your home and do not want one for health or privacy reasons, you should notify your local utility and Public Service Commission or Public Utility Commission using this suggested letter. Refer to the US Energy Policy Act of 2005 which indicates utilities should ask for a customer's permission before installing a smart meter.  Also search on the internet and see if there is a group in your state trying to stop the deployment and get information from them and join their efforts.  There are no laws at the federal level stating that smart meters are mandatory. Fiber optic networks are faster, more secure, and pose no health concerns. Fiber optic communications is a safer alternative to wireless smart meters.
While the state of Maine already has a smart meter opt-out program approved by the Maine Public Service Commission, citizens are opposed to paying an additional fee to retain their analog meters.  Ed Friedman filed a complaint, and the Maine Supreme Court ruled that the Maine Public Service Commission must reconsider health and safety concerns.  His brief, supplemental information and appendix may help you in standing up to the roll out of wireless smart meters.

1 Trial, Allen, Attorney San Diego Gas and Electric Company, Response of San Diego Gas and Electric Company on the Administrative Law Judge’s Ruling Seeking Clarification Before the Public Utilities Commission, November 1, 2011, pg. 6. 

2 Murrill, Brandon J., Liu, Edward C., and Thompson, Richard M., Smart Meter Data: Privacy and Cybersecurity, Congressional Research Service, February 3, 2012. Page 4.



   30 minute video describing Pacific Gas and Electric's smart meter program
   and the Home Area Network
               2 minute demonstration of the microwave readings of a smart meter.
Kim Bendis of Naperville Smart Meter Awareness demonstrates that a Naperville
resident who changed her mind about allowing a smart meter on her home
can be bullied. The police were called in to enforce that the meter cannot be switched 
back.  6 minutes March 8, 2012.
       5 minute video of Daniel Hirsch, senior lecturer of Nuclear Policy at UCSC,
       who explains that RF whole-body exposure to a smart meter is 100 times
       higher than exposure to a cell phone.