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Last fall, when the Energy Department handed out $3.4 billion to utilities to get them to deploy smart meters, the response was overwhelmingly negative in Bakersfield, CA, for example. A class action suit was filed against Pacific Gas & Electric, saying the smart meters jacked up homeowners’ energy rates.
Because many utilities and consumers have failed to rally behind the smart grid, the Energy Department April 8 announced it would sink $100 million into 54 different smart grid training programs across the country. This training outlay was described by the Energy Department as an attempt to “accelerate change.” The $100 million was called an investment in “workers of tomorrow” to create a green-collar workforce.
How about privacy with the grid? Communications industry attorney Michael Pryor says in an article on Smart Grid News.com Customer Proprietary Network Information (CPNI) established by Congress to protect consumers of telecommunications services may govern the “use and distribution of personal, sensitive information that will be gathered as smart grid technologies are deployed….The CPNI rules create an overarching ‘duty’ on telecommunications carriers to protect the confidentiality of their customers’ proprietary data….Customers should be able to decide whether third parties are entitled to access it for purposes other than providing electric power….” But will they?
In an April blog, Guerry Waters, vice president of Oracle, reportedly the largest international software company wrote: “Most consumers and regulators” seem to accept that utilities should keep pace with technology….Nevertheless, many remain “unconvinced smart meters are a wise investment.” Some think utilities will collect and possibly resell their consumption information. A larger group fear that smart meters “will usher in a new rate structure that will disadvantage the poor and elderly and saddle them with inefficient appliances….Many think less costly measures could do more to save energy or lower bills.”
Currently, nearly half of the electricity the county uses comes from coal-fired power plants, which the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has threatened to shut down supposedly to control mercury emissions from aging power plants. Stricter boiler standards would affect refineries, paper mills, chemical factories, and other facilities. EPA may delay the restrictions in the face of industry opposition.
A June 13 story in The Wall Street Journal reports the 946- page EPA rule mandates that utilities install “maximum achievable control technology.” The rule, even by EPA’s estimate, is the most expensive in its history. Clearly, the goal is to kill the coal industry.
A Wall Street Journal article in April said not everybody thinks smart meters are “such a smart use of money.” Utility companies, it said, “are spending billions of dollars” outfitting homes and businesses with the advanced meters. Meters aren’t cheap. They run $250 to $500 each. These costs typically are passed on to consumers.
No wonder Obama warned three years ago that electricity rates for Americans “will necessarily skyrocket.”
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