Smart Grid Funding Dwindles As Energy Industry Reviews The Power Grid Project

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The Obama administration funding for a smart grid is winding down. Energy leaders are now assessing how the project has progressed. Opponents to the smart grid and smart meters remain vocal in their opposition to the project, citing privacy, national security, and health issues among the reasons for their views.

National Rural Electric Cooperative Association won a $33.9 million taxpayer funded federal grant to modernize the power grid. The company’s chief scientist Craig Miller maintains that the smart grid and smart meters will alert utility companies more quickly about power outages, but admits that concerns about data privacy and radiation exposure have been voiced by customers. “Where the standards are lacking is absolutely a barrier to the adoption of new technology, because standards make things interoperable,” Miller said.

The overly taxed and antiquated piece of vital infrastructure appears to be a prime “soft target” for terrorism, if the attacks on substations and the Georgia militia FBI arrests are any indication. Although most scientists and lawmakers can agree that the power grid is vulnerable, debate over the effectiveness and security of a smart grid system remains hotly debated.

Maryland Public Service Commissioner Anne Hoskins had this to say about data privacy concerns involving smart meters and a smart grid:

“As we focus on all technology development, we need to find a way to have customers understand the value of this, because a lot of investment is required.”

Cyber hacking of smart meters to possibly overload and garner control of significant portions of the power grid is also an often voiced worry about the smart power initiative. Last fall the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) issued a $14.3 million Smart Grid Technology grant for the furtherance of smart grid systems in rural parts of America.

Excerpt from a National Institute of Standards and Technology report about smart meters and the smart grid:

“In the current operation of the electric utilities, data taken from traditional meters consists of basic data usage readings required to create bills. Under the smart grid implementation, smart meters will be able to collect other types of data. Some of this additional data may constitute personal information or may be used to determine personal activities. Because of the associated privacy risks, only the minimum amount of data necessary for services, provisioning, and billing should be collected.”

Environmentalist Ed Friedman is one of the folks leading the charge against smart meters in America. Friedman believes that the smart power devices not only prompt an invasion of privacy, but pose health risks as well. According to the Take Back Your Power documentary smart meters may have a negative impact on human blood cells. The Maine man also objects to utility companies and 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. And they said ‘You don’t have a choice.’ That got my back up. In this country, we have no choices about technology,” Friedman said.

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.

Former CIA Director David Petraeus once said that internet accessible 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 say that remote control radio frequency identification devices, or energy harvesters, sensor networks, and small embedded servers all connected to an online network will be all that is necessary for clandestine intelligence gathering.

How do you feel about smart meters and the smart grid?

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