The documentary Take Back Your Power details not just the security concerns often associated with a smart grid system, but the battle being waged by common citizens who do not want the new techno gadgets installed at their homes. The devices utilize wireless radios to communicate data about electrical usage — making them prime targets for cyber hackers. Thousands of utility workers could reportedly be laid-off since the real-time tracking devices eliminate the bulk of the need for meter readers.
Cost increase horror stories from homeowners forced to allow the installation of smart meters offer a startling look at the price hikes which could soon impact us all. British Columbia resident Susan McDonnell’s monthly utility bill was the focus of a CTV News report about the high costs of smart meters. McDonnell’s typical monthly power bill average about $60, until the Smart Grid system came to town. The power bill for her one-bedroom condo increased more than 100 percent to $745 last December. CTV said it had “heard from dozens of viewers who say their hydro bills have doubled or tripled since their smart meter was installed.”
Although the Smart Grid issue gets very little attention by the mainstream media, installation of the meters have prompted backlash worldwide.
“Homeowners, experts, doctors, local governments, environmentalists, and health organizations around the world are saying ‘NO’ to smart meters, which are quietly being installed on every home and business worldwide – without disclosure of the risks and the violations of rights,” reads the Take Back Your Power website.
Maine helicopter pilot and environmentalist Ed Friedman is one of the folks leading the charge against smart meters in the United States. Friedman believes that the Smart Grid devices not only prompt an invasion of privacy, but pose health risks as well. According to the Take Back Your Power movie, smart meters may have a negative impact on human blood cells. The Maine environmentalist objects to the utility company or any governmental agencies being able to receive and transmit information from his home without his permission.
“I called the company, I said we didn’t want one,” Friedman said. “And they said ‘You don’t have a choice.’ That got my back up. In this country, we have no choices about technology.”
Liberal groups in California pushed for a block on the smart meters over health concerns and Tea Party groups in Texas are lining up in opposition to the devices on privacy grounds, as well. Liberals and fiscal conservatives are typically natural foes on many issues, but concerns over the creation of a nationwide smart grid has turned them into temporary allies.
“The smart grid is increasingly understood as an over engineered, ill-advised, financial boondoggle at taxpayer expense, capable of endangering the security of the entire national grid, violating constitutional privacy protections and endangering public health,” said the Berkshire-Litchfield Environmental Council in a statement. “In addition, the smart grid/metering has not been found to save energy when all the new variables in the system are factored in. Plus, time-of-use pricing is largely punitive to those who can least afford it. Time-of-use pricing is fundamentally a Wall Street model designed to maintain shareholder profits as we transition to more energy efficient models that will reduce demand.”
The Stop Smart Meters website states that fire dangers are also a problem associated with smart meters. Fire calls after smart meter installations reportedly include the shorting-out of electronics of all varieties and the burning-out of appliances. According to the Stop Smart Meters group, the smart grid devices do not always emit less RF (radio frequency) exposure than a cell phone — as some utility companies allegedly state.
“People are becoming increasingly aware of the potential harm done by chronic exposure to RF radiation-emitting devices and are taking steps to change how they use them. Most people are not offered a wired smart meter and you can’t turn it off once it is installed,” the group contends.
Due to a recent summer heat wave, customers enrolled in the Alliant Energy Appliance Cycling plan in Iowa will have their air conditioners automatically cycled to fan mode every 15 minutes to reduce their energy usage. Whenever there is a hot or cold spell which could lead to increased demand, the company will simply flip a control switch. Perhaps the $8 per month the customers are paid for enrollment in the program was not such a good deal after all.
Former CIA Director David Petraeus once stated that web-connected gadgets, such as common appliances, will transform the art of spying. Petraeus also noted that spies will be able to monitor individuals without ever breaking into their home and planting a bug. He went on to state that remote control radio frequency identification devices, “energy harvesters,” sensor networks, and small embedded severs all connected to an Internet network will be all that is necessary for clandestine intelligence gathering.
The Take Back Your Power film is billed as a journey of both “revelation and discovery” which questions both the risks and the benefits of smart grid technology and smart meters. The documentary also touches upon the corporate practices which could possibly be used to garner private information about individuals and further erode citizens’ rights in the United States. The project was made possible at least in part by using crowd funding.
Those interested in planning either a public or home screening of the documentary can do so by registering for the event on the film’s website, TakeBackYourPower.net. Take Back Your Power premieres on Sept. 5.