4:10 PM EDT, July 8, 2011
Utilities are installing smart meters and moving toward a smarter grid. Modernizing our electrical and water infrastructure by integrating new technologies helps bring our system into the 21st century in order for us to meet future needs of our community in a safe, reliable and environmentally responsible way.
Knowing the facts is vital to understanding the issues and benefits. The best way to understand how the smart grid helps you is to ask some basic questions:
1. How high is my water and electric usage and how much will my next bill be? Previously, you wouldn’t know these answers until you received your next bill. With smart meters, you will see your usage in near real-time through future in-home displays and online. Your usage is communicated and displayed securely so that you can make informed choices about your usage.
2. How do I know if I have a water leak on my property? You may not know about this leak until you receive your water bill two months from now. With smart meters, you could be alerted to a water leak, which could save you hundreds of dollars.
3. To help keep my utility bills down, should I reschedule some of my appliances? The smart grid gives you access to your usage online so you know the time of day when you are using the most power, allowing you to plan accordingly in order to save money.
These are just a few of the benefits of smart meters and the smart grid. As with any new technology, there may be concerns. We have heard concerns about possible radio frequency health affects and the privacy of data.
Our research indicates that these concerns are based on unfounded reports and claims found on the Internet that have no scientific support.
Radio frequency waves are all around us and are used in various electronics, including cell phones, microwaves, baby monitors, cordless phones and radio broadcasting. Since 1996, the Federal Communications Commission requires all wireless communications devices sold in the United States to meet specific guidelines for safe human exposure to radio frequency energy.
According to several reputable organizations, including the California Council on Science and Technology, the World Health Organization and the Utilities Telecom Council, there is no demonstrated cause-and-effect relationship between low levels of radio frequency exposure and health.
We understand that some customers are concerned about this new technology, however; unfortunately, there is a lot of false information being spread about smart meters. Smart meters communicate using low-power radio signals that are much weaker in strength than those created by cell phones, microwaves or even exposure from sitting in a coffee shop with Internet access.
Smart Meters emit only a fraction of the power limits identified in the FCC guidelines for safe radio frequency energy exposure, and they do so for very short periods of time. In addition, distance from any of these sources greatly diminishes any radio frequency exposure.
Talking on your cell phone, being around others with cell phones, or being near a wireless computer modem exposes you to more radio frequency energy than you would receive anywhere in your home with your smart meter outside.
Glendale Water & Power is installing the Itron OpenWay and SaveSource smart meters for electric and water that use a combination of fiber optic and Wi-Fi systems to transmit the data to the utility over our own fiber optic network. Our system does not use any cell phone technology.
The new meters will provide timely usage data securely. Recently we have implemented a Cyber Security Plan. We are ensuring that our customer data is kept private and we are taking additional measures to further safeguard customer data.
Smart grid will give our customers new tools to help them make informed choices that save money and help the environment in ways that would be impossible with traditional meters. Through future in-home displays and our secure Internet portal, our customers will have access to their usage to help them conserve and participate in different pricing plans that better fit their lifestyles.
We have already seen early examples of how a modernized grid will benefit our customers. Smart meters recently detected large water leaks in two multi-family properties, saving customers thousands of dollars as well as thousands of gallons of water.
Glendale Water & Power’s website includes peer-reviewed journals and reports on the safety and benefits of smart meters. We encourage customers to read this information.
If customers would like to have direct dialogue with us, they can also attend one of our “Coffees in the Park” so that we may address any questions or concerns.
For more information, visit http://www.GlendaleWaterAndPower.com/smart_meters.aspx.
Editor’s note: Steiger is the general manager of Glendale Water & Power.