According to a recent New York Times article, resistance to smart-meter implementation is sprouting across the country and seems to cross all ideologies and political boundaries.
In California, PG&E has installed nearly seven million smart meters, but protests are erupting just as installation of the devices has reached full steam. “Stop Smart Meter” signs are found on bumper stickers and lawn signs while, ironically, local governments surrounding the epicenter of smart-grid techno wizardry in Silicon Valley are raising big challenges. In Santa Cruz County south of San Jose, the Board of Supervisors extended a yearlong moratorium on smart-meter installations, while in tony Marin County north of San Francisco, officials approved a ban in the largely rural areas of the county comprising 25% of its inhabitants.
It seems that people from all stripes are against smart meters, but for widely differing reasons. Some on the environmental fringe are concerned about the health effects of all that “radiation” from the low-power radio and microwave emissions zipping data from the meter to utility. Meanwhile, smart meter opponents from the right decry the erosion of freedom, while those on the left fret about the rise of corporate power.
It is doubtful that this small but growing opposition will put a serious dent in smart-meter deployment. Already, some 16% of buildings and homes in the U.S. incorporate advanced meters, and that number is expected to grow to 20% by the end of 2011 alone. Even so, it remains quite possible that customers will dig in their heels over the variable pricing that smart meters enable. However, even if resistance materializes, utilities will still benefit – both from reduced costs, as manual meter-reading becomes superfluous, and from improved grid stability as info on electricity demand – and blackouts – becomes vastly more accessible. In the end, the protests may be loud, but the smart-meter purveyors like Itron and Landis+Gyr will continue to see robust growth.