Smarten up, people, urges a post in The TerraPass Footprint. Numerous consumers are balking at the smart meter installations the California utility, PG&E, is rolling out across the state. Privacy and electromagnetic sensitivity are two of the issues being cited by consumers. If a significant proportion of utility customers choose to opt-out, the value of the entire program—which can provide useful minute-by-minute information about electricity usage—can be significantly lessened.
The post's author, Erik Blachford, comments:
For those who aren’t familiar with the smart meters, the basic idea is to replace analog meters read by hand (er, by eye), with digital meters which transmit electricity usage information wirelessly and presumably more accurately back to the utility. This technology enables but does not automatically trigger a variety of new rate-setting possibilities, most notably time-of-day pricing. By the same token, it enables the utility to provide consumers with more detailed information about their energy use; this data can be helpful for consumers hoping to reduce their consumption or even just their bills (though there are other services which don’t involve smart meters which achieve some of the same goals). Finally, smart meters may eventually tie back into the smart grid, allowing utilities to manage power distribution better by optimizing power available from small, distributed energy sources.
The trade-off between individual rights and the greater good of the commons (through a more efficient energy distribution network that can accommodate micropower installations more easily) is a tough one. In this case, the greater good may be on the side of smart metering.