Claremore Daily Progress

August 28, 2013

Councilors discuss plans for smart meter implementation

Mark Friedel
Staff Reporter


Claremore city councilors met Monday evening to discuss possible plans for the implementation of smart meters in all Claremore homes and businesses.
The General Electric Grid IQ project would include both water and electric utilities.
For the past two months, city council members have met with GE business development leaders discussing the change. A presentation was given during the special meeting to determine what plans are called for next.
Council members brought up some concerns, including biological affects due to radio frequency from the wireless meters.
According to a 2012 BioInitiative report compiled by scientists from around the world, the FCC standards for smart meters, WiFi, cell towers etc. only measure thermal radiation, but do not protect biological life and are at least a million times too high for the protection of people. 
The report indicates that 3 percent of the general population will sustain injury immediately from implementation of a smart meter grid system and 30 percent will follow later.
Biological effects found in 67 studies conducted between 1980 and 2010, included brain tumors and blood-brain barrier, cancer (other than brain), cell proliferation, cardiac, heart muscle, blood-pressure, vascular effects, learning behaviors, sleeping disorders, stress problems, among others.
The report also states that a single smart appliance in the home can produce RF exposure levels that caused the biological affects found in nearly half or fewer of the 67 studies, depending on the distance from the smart appliance.
Multiple smart appliances in a home multiply the exposure. A given home may have one to eight nearby neighbors, each with a smart meter, which can also multiply the total exposure in the given home, according to the report.
Scientists, however, have yet to determine real evidence of how or why radiofrequencies affect the human body in this manner.
In a letter written to the Claremore City Council, Don Powers, Edmond attorney at law, stated that Federal law requires smart meters to be an “opt-in” program.
Powers wrote, “In the hearings before the Oklahoma Corporation Commission for OG&E’s smart meter program, there was no mention of safety of the devices. The Commission simply accepted a report from OG&E’s consultant who regurgitates the FCC guidelines. These guidelines, or standards, claim that cell towers and smart meters, etc. are safe because they do not raise the temperature of a thermometer stuck in a dummy’s head that is exposed to transmissions from these devices. That’s the science behind the safety of these devices.”
“Safety concerns with this software are going to keep coming up, and we have to find a way to address (the concerns),” said Ward IV Councilor Mark Lepak. 
GE business development leaders told the council that the health concerns issue is not their area of expertise, and they would need to put together a communication plan for the city, from an outside source, providing information on how other radio system and cell tower companies deal with similar questions.
Smart Grid Business Development Leader for GE, Jody Casey, said if a customer determines that he or she is having health problems because of a smart meter, “they can opt out.” 
“The smart meter will be located outside the house and not inside, but if they’re worried about radiofrequencies, then that means they can’t have a flat screen TV, wireless internet, a cell phone, portable phone or microwave,” said Casey.
City Manager Jim Thomas said the smart meter system has an estimated cost of $80,000 per month. The expense for the meters is projected to be less than the cost-savings. 
The $80,000 would be paid as a result of electric revenues generated.
Meter installation is expected to cost about $6 million.
“I talked to officials about numbers for software installations for our data office, but they talked in circles and never really gave me a number,” said Director of Electric Utility Larry Hughes. “It’s obviously going to grow from the $6 million, as far as the backbone of communications infrastructure, but I have not been able to obtain the numbers.”
He said none of the numbers came from GE, but instead a third party company which will physically install the meters for the city.
If completed, the new system would guarantee an accurate record of all usage for 10 years. 
A recent sample of the current analog meters revealed that Claremore Electric is losing revenue from some meters that incorrectly record data.
Hughes said the new meters are nearly 100 percent accurate and the city would see an increase in revenue offsetting the monthly fee to GE.
Total estimated costs of savings for the city would be “at least” $1 million with additional savings from reduction in workforce, fuel expenses, vehicle maintenance and more, said City Manager Jim Thomas.
“Funds could be used for rebuilding infrastructure.”
Another added benefit is outage detection.
Hughes said currenty employees must hunt for the location of a power outage, using up man power. 
The new system will be able to accurately pinpoint the area of concern from the data office, allowing for the city to create a strategic plan for resolving the matter.
Power to each electric utility will be able to be disconnected and reconnected from the push of a button.
Smart grid implementation would take about six months to complete and The City of Claremore would not need to pay a dime until the sytem is operational, said Hughes.
Further discussion on safety concerns and future plans for the project will be made at the next regular city council meeting.