Glendale Water and Power has organized a Smart Energy Community Forum to present its case for the Smart Grid project. The letter announcing the forum states that it will “feature local, statewide and national panelists who have expertise in addressing the key consumer issues and concerns that have surfaced in the industry.”
In a letter responding to this invitation, and at city council chambers, I noted that panelists could be described in a different way: all except one have a direct conflict of interest, because their research program, their career, or their sales bottom line includes smart meter technology and programs. It is more than likely that customers attending will get another sales pitch for the grand program.
Objections to smart meters and the smart grid include: unknown health effects of constant exposure to wireless, pulsed, digital radiation the devices emit; and violations of privacy because meters collect energy use information several times a day and transmit it back to the utility.
A forum focusing on the significant downsides of smart meters took place last week in Glendale and drew concerned citizens from around Southern California. Ron Kaye wrote about The Arrogance of Power in Sunday’s Glendale News-Press (taking a line from one irate GWP customer), concluding “Listening to members of the audience comment at the end of the program, I came away convinced that there are legitimate questions to be answered and we need a much more robust — and honest — conversation about smart meters and just about everything else that people in authority are imposing on us.” The November 10 forum was also covered in LA Weekly’s Smart Meter Resistance Spreads to SoCal, which advised LADWP customers to “join the zealots at your city’s next council meeting and urge local politicians to do like many NorCal jurisdictions have done already: Pass a moratorium on Smart Meters. At least until they’re proven safe, effective and a little less creepy.”
Selling this project in the face of growing opposition in Glendale, around the state, and around the country continues to be the focus for GWP: two years of community outreach meetings, this year’s weekend “Coffees in the Park”, and now a forum with several heavy hitters in the project, including a representative from the California Public Utilities Commission who claimed in an email to a Burbank resident that “the CPUC has zero authority over municipal utilities.” That claim is actually not true: the CPUC does have authority over municipal utilities when it comes to public safety issues, and those concerned about the long-term impacts of constant exposure to EMFs would certainly classify their worries as a public safety issue.
The CPUC is now sorting out proposals to allow opt-outs for the thousands of customers throughout California who don’t want smart meters. Many opposed to smart meters are asking: “Why should those who don’t want smart meters have to pay extra to opt out?” At the September 14 hearing on opt-outs, an official told the audience that since the CPUC authorized the project, either ratepayers or taxpayers are on the hook for opt-out costs. One member of the audience asked, “Why shouldn’t shareholders bear the cost?” That’s a question that PG&E, SCE, and SDG&E customers can sort out. Where does that leave citizens served by a municipal utility?
The fact is that utilities didn’t have the right to install these meters on people’s residences without their consent.