Worcesterites are Wise, Smart Meters are Not Smart

When the smart meter pilot program launched in Worcester in 2012, the national smart meter narrative was unraveling due to health, cost, green washing, security, privacy, safety, and fire issues.

 

The Texas Public Utilities Commission addressed the health issue. The agency, which is supposed to regulate utilities, received over $3M from the Dept. of Energy to write a report to conclude, “Staff has determined that the large body of scientific research reveals no definite or proven biological effects from exposure to low-level RF signals.” “Further, Staff found no credible evidence to suggest that advanced meters emit harmful amounts of EMF.”

 

An unqualified securities analyst with no medical expertise compiled the Texas smart meter health report. The biased literature review came under heavy fire for cherry-picking data. Texas Lieutenant Governor David Dewhurst issued a statement advising other states to conduct their own health research, and not to rely on the Texas report, which was not a health study. Yet the MA DPU, the City of Worcester, industry, and other states’ agencies use the Texas document to misrepresent the safety of the technology and negate citizen health complaints.

 

Meanwhile, billing spikes for phantom energy consumption and cost overruns for deployments were mounting, The Illinois legislature agreed to give Americans the impression that the electric grid could be modernized for the reasonable cost of $3/month per ratepayer. When Governor Pat Quinn and Attorney General Lisa Madigan attempted to protect ratepayers from sweetheart deals for utilities involving automatic rate hikes, the Legislature maneuvered to block the desired bill’s veto by preventing it from reaching the Governor’s desk.

 

In April of 2015, Governor Rauner gave the Illinois utilities what they wanted – 2 additional years without any financial oversight, though 2019, with no consumer protections.  An AARP blogger reported that one utility spent over $16.2M on lobbying alone in 2011, noting that the money could have been used for many other purposes. $580M in additional rates have been charged. “Modernizing the grid” has amounted to the installation of a surveillance device on homes and businesses that does not generate energy or reduce consumption; consumes energy; is flammable, melts, or explodes; and emits a class 2B possible human carcinogen.

 

The claim that smart meters were necessary to integrate renewables into the grid went off the rails when Arizona utilities began to alter the compensation formula for solar producers. Arizona saw a decrease in applications for rooftop solar when utilities began charging producers up to $50/month in some areas for the privilege of selling electricity back to the grid. States including Massachusetts are engaged in net metering battles with caps on rooftop solar installation and compensation formulas that reward utilities, enabled by smart meter time of use billing capabilities. Regulators, politicians, and industry in many states have favored large utility-scale solar farms rather than the efficiency of decentralized rooftop installations with on-site storage.

 

 

National Grid, Worcester, the Legislature, and the Patrick administration came to the rescue for smart grid green-washing charges by planning a “sustainability” smart meter pilot that would conclude that a well-educated community with leading academic partners, a solar powered carwash, and a wind turbine would welcome the opportunity to alter electricity consumption behavior in response to data provided by wireless smart meters.

 

To insure the pilot’s success, the MA DPU also allowed the utility to replace each opt out with another customer meter installation. This accommodation altered any possibility of research validity because the pool of participants is skewed towards those who support the program’s goals. The fact that National Grid has its own employees or others who will benefit from smart meter deployment in the pilot further erodes credibility. National Grid recently recommended that other deployments seek “easy installs” which includes employees and early adopters of new technology, but MA ratepayers probably did not need to pay $48M for this conclusion.

 

The MA DPU covertly granted the Worcester pilot a sweetheart deal similar to Illinois, by allowing the utility to wait over 2 years until January of 2015 to launch the pilot, with no accounting for cost overruns or recognition of citizen opposition.  Meanwhile, the DPU mandated smart meters for statewide deployment.

 

Despite the mantra that customers “wanted more information about their electricity usage” so that they could make better decisions,” the need for “better decisions” by consumers is the direct result of punitive time-of-use rate structures planned for Massachusetts and elsewhere.

 

National Grid employed a career tobacco mercenary scientist to mislead the Worcester Zoning Board on the safety of the wireless network. Peter Valberg also testified for the MA DPU to negate health concerns and justify the mandate the same week he testified for Phillip Morris cigarettes.

 

Worcester’s Health Department followed suit with its own health report that mischaracterized the BioInitiative Report summary of research showing biological harm. The Worcester report quoted a local engineering professor who received funding for grid research and who has no health expertise. It was partially sourced from Wikipedia. Citizen concerns over property values were also negated by the City Assessor’s report.

 

Had the Worcester pilot not been an exercise in decision-based evidence making, it might have already proven that smart meters are not a reasonable investment, that they are not safe, that they invade privacy, and that they are not secure or green.

 

The decision by the MA DPU to create a smart meter mandate without waiting for the results of the Worcester pilot, and on the basis of fraudulent health claims partly based on the testimony of a career tobacco scientist leads to the question:

“Is the Green Communities Act responsible stewardship, or racketeering?”

 

Recognition is dawning that the environmental and health consequences of technologies being deployed ostensibly to address the health and environmental consequences of fossil fuels are driven by the market, with no true regard for the environment or health.

 

The core values of Americans seeking progress in renewable energy are being manipulated in favor of utility-scale gas, wind, solar, and hydropower projects, and smart meter wide-scale citizen surveillance.  Governor Duval Patrick’s meetings with New England Governors behind closed doors to plan multiple aggressive large-scale energy infrastructure projects under the banner of sustainability and climate preparedness have taken the Commonwealth so far off course from the opportunity to make significant gains in environmental stewardship, and pose such a significant a threat to so many habitats and communities, that the time has come to regroup and hold elected officials accountable.

 

Three years ago, Worcester residents asked for a public hearing concerning the smart meter pilot where they could ask questions that National Grid would be required to answer. Four City Councilors, Konnie Lukes, Gary Rosen, Michael Gaffney, and Moe Bergman attempted to advocate for constituents. The ruling by unsung hero Worcester Solicitor David Moore prevented National Grid for over-riding zoning ordinances for tower installations.

 

Career tobacco scientists thrive in environments where there is an inadequate system of checks and balances. History will have a difficult time understanding how so many people could have been duped for so long by the masquerading of green. Now its time for a both a moratorium and an investigation of the pilot, the DPU as an agency, and the Green Communities Act.

 

Stretching the truth a little bit becomes habitual lying, which eventually defines the character of a City, Commonwealth, or country, unless enough individuals help to restore impeccable grace and justice. Worcester is the place, and the time is now.

 

Massachusetts residents have submitted a fraud complaint to the MA Attorney General and the Legislative Oversight Committee regarding the MA DPU smart meter mandate. 

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