Guest opinion by Steve Funk, Mount Shasta

It was short-sighted and irresponsible for the city council to oppose the power security and energy conservation benefits that smart meters will provide.

Guest opinion by Steve Funk, Mount Shasta

It was short-sighted and irresponsible for the city council to oppose the power security and energy conservation benefits that smart meters will provide.

Smart meters will give the power company an early warning when the system is under stress.   This allows the power company to take actions to avoid a major outage. Smart meters won't help when we have hundreds of down trees, but they will help during late summer peak periods when there is drought, heavy demand, fires and low flow from all the hydroelectric sources. By passing this resolution, the council voted for more power outages.

We need smart meters to save energy. They provide a financial incentive to conserve during peak demand.  One study estimated up to 10% reduction in electrical use after smart meters were installed. What happens if all of the communities exert political pressure and stop the installation of smart meters? The power company would need to make this up by providing more capacity, perhaps with more coal or natural gas plants. In that case the council resolution is a vote for more global warming. Or they could meet some of the demand by working the hydro plants harder, reducing minimum water releases and ignoring the recommendations of fisheries biologists. In that case, the council resolution is a vote for killing salmon.  Or the power company could throw up their hands and do nothing. In that case, the council resolution is all the more a vote for increased power outages.  

A smart meter exposes one to 0.1 microwatts/cm2 of radio frequency radiation at a distance of 10 feet, and transmits about 45 seconds in a 24 hour period. (A microwatt is one millionth of a watt.) Standing next to a microwave exposes you to 200 times more radiation.  Using a cell phone exposes you to at least 10,000 times more radiation than a smart meter.

Using a wireless modem or a laptop computer exposes you to 150 times more radiation than a smart meter.  We expose ourselves to additional radio waves through portable land lines, garage door openers, regular radios, and television.

Smart meters would add about  0.01% to the background exposure that we willingly experience when we use the appliances we want and need. To think that this miniscule increment of radio wave exposure would be a health hazard is very far fetched.  

Power outages, on the other hand, are a real health hazard. People die during major outages, from heat, lack of ventilation, carbon monoxide poisoning and loss of essential medical devices.  By passing this resolution, the council is saying that the psychosomatic impacts of smart meters are more important than the real health impacts of power outages. In addition, they are putting the irrational fears that a few people have of new technology ahead of the rational, scientifically supported fears of what will happen if we don’t reduce our use of fossil fuels. Pacific Power generates 49% of its electricity from natural gas and coal.  

The Public Utilities Commission already provides an opt-out provision for those determined not to install smart meters. It involves a small surcharge, as it should.  

The city should be encouraging smart meters, not fighting them.