Your Cell Phone is More Harmful than a Smart Meter

Smart meters could be one of the most controversial pieces of equipment in the energy industry to date.  Are they violating my privacy?  Do they emit dangerous radio frequencies?  Is the government spying on me?!  Despite these concerns, the amount of installed smart meters is set to take a drastic leap.

The initial boom of smart meters is winding down, but Navigant Research is predicting another huge wave of installations over the next 10 years, especially in North America and Europe.  The United Kingdom and France are both reported to be on the brink of massive smart meter rollouts.  “Worldwide shipments of smart meters will peak in 2018, at 131 million annually, before slowing to 114 million by 2022,” the report states.

Is there anything to worry about?

If this forecast is correct, I figured we better get to the bottom of any apprehension and determine if these devices are really cause for concern.  I spoke with Jim Korczykowski, president of Energy Curtailment Specialists, to clear the air.

“Utilities generally have privacy policies that specify that data is only used for professional purposes like billing and forecasting, and prohibit disclosure of information to third parties,” explains Jim.  “Information breaches are extremely rare and customers should not worry, since the transmitted data is encrypted for substantial protection.”

But what about those health warnings we’ve heard about?

Jim clarifies that smart meters communicate with very low levels of radio frequencies, and compares them to the cell phone that we need to keep within an arm’s reach at all times.  “We keep cell phones in our pockets all day and it has been established that they do not create any adverse health effects, yet they do give off radio frequencies.”  He goes on to explain, “Given that consumers rarely come in direct contact with smart meters, exposure to these low radio frequencies is a fraction of the amount we get from our cell phones.”

A typical smart meter releases radio frequencies for approximately one minute each day, and after 20 years, the total exposure would be equivalent to a 30 minute call on a cell phone.

What to expect

As smart meters are becoming even more technically advanced, utilities are installing them for their customers to offer more control over energy consumption and costs.  Jim closes the interview with one final thought regarding the outlook of smart meters, “I definitely see these devices playing a vital role in our future.”

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