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CCST Advises State on SmartMeter Safety


Assembly Member Jared Huffman (Marin), joined by Assembly Member Bill Monning (Santa Cruz) has requested CCST to provide an assessment of the safety of SmartMeters. CCST has agreed to compile and assess the evidence available to address the following two issues:

  • Whether FCC standards for SmartMeters are sufficiently protective of public health taking into account current exposure levels to radiofrequency and electromagnetic fields.
  • Whether additional technology specific standards are needed for SmartMeters and other devices that are commonly found in and around homes, to ensure adequate protection from adverse health effects.

SmartMeters are electronic monitoring devices that continuously measure the electricity output from each household and business. They communicate on a regular basis back to the utility. The goal is to enable power companies to better understand patterns of power consumption throughout the day and adjust power generation accordingly. Traditional electrical meters only measure total consumption and do not provide information on when the energy was consumed.

Power companies across the United States and Europe are turning to smartmeter technology to increase the efficiency of their power distribution and pricing. The system also allows power companies to pinpoint exact locations of outages during blackouts. Consumers, however, have raised concerns about the technology.

The Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) and other utility service providers have been installing wireless SmartMeters statewide in California since November 2006 under the authority of the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), which is seeking to guide the development of a "smart grid" power system in California that can facilitate integration of new technologies such as distributed generation, storage, demand- side technologies, and electric vehicles. PG&E plans to complete implemention of the devices statewide throughout their service regions by 2012; as of the beginning of October, over 6.5 million meters had been installed, of a total planned 9.8 million meters.

Public concerns over the devices, both in California and elsewhere, have been raised about the impact of the SmartMeter intermittent wireless transmissions and the overall issue of the cumulative effect of ubiquitous wireless signals upon peoples' health. PG&E assures consumers that the devices being installed fully comply with FCC safety standards and thus are not a health risk. In large part because of these health concerns, some local governments have sought temporary moratoriums on installing the meters, a move that helped prompt the legislative request to CCST.

CCST is being asked to address whether they do comply with the FCC standards and if those guidelines are sufficient to protect public health.

"We note that there is also public concern that the FCC standards are not sufficiently protective of public health and may not take into account the cumulative effect of radiation exposure from a growing number of sources and devices," said CCST Chair Charles Kennel, "While it is not possible to predict future evidence or further effects, we can give [the State] a conclusive assessment from current knowledge." CCST's report is to assess whether FCC standards for Smart- Meters are sufficiently protective of public health, and to ensure adequate protection from adverse health effects.

"The promise of the smart grid and SmartMeters is that they can provide a tool to help reduce energy use by offering instant feedback to customers who can shift their energy use from peak hours," said Assemblyman Bill Monning, who joined Assemblyman Huffman in asking for CCST's input on the matter. "[But] like any new technology, good data must support decisions about whether the benefits outweigh the costs."

Volume 15, Issue 3, November 2010

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