Smart meter analog opt-out a smart solution for Independence

The City Council is voting on the Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) – aka “smart meter” – project on April 16. Many residents are opposed to smart meters, and the following concerns outline why we need a fair and affordable analog opt-out program.

Expect to pay more for your water and electricity. AMI companies present smart meter installation as a lucrative cash cow for cities. Given that Independence is facing a budget shortfall, this prospect may be too tempting to turn down. Though our so-called antiquated analog meters have pooled a surplus of millions of dollars for this project, we're still being told our current meters are not collecting enough usage data.

Rather than hit the profit limit, which would require a rebate for homeowners, IPL has decided to spend that money to make more money. Studies have shown bills increase for many, with up to 25 percent of homeowners experiencing a four-fold increase after smart meter installation. “Peaking pricing” will raise our bills even more. Smart meters are computers and must be maintained and updated. According to congressional testimony from one expert, they only have a lifespan of 5 to 7 years (far less than our good old reliable, less expensive analogs.)

Given that the City Council is already questionably borrowing money from the water department to pay for the Farmer's Market, it's easy to see how increased profits from AMI may take priority over the financial blow to residents. If that isn't enough, IPL is apparently looking at a future rate increase separate from the AMI project.

This is a property rights issue. Utility companies do not have the right to control anything inside your home or monitor you without your permission. They have no rights past the demarcation line (the point behind the meter before it goes into your home.) Allowing installation of a smart meter on your home gives implied consent that your are OK with IPL adjusting your thermostat, monitoring how and when you use your electricity or water, and selling your data to third parties. Though utility companies often deny this surveillance, they have the capability, and it is already happening all across the country.

Smart meters cause fires. The AMI industry denies it's the meter's fault, but blames outdated wiring or faulty connections. IPL will be responsible only for the meter and the connection to the home. The homeowner is held responsible for updating the home's wiring to accommodate the smart meter! Due to the prevalence of fire related damage to homes and businesses, plus a lack of cooperation in investigating the source of smart meter fires, insurance underwriting offices across the U.S. are contemplating new rules that will specifically limit or deny coverage from smart meter failure.

More research needs to be done on the impact of RF/EMF emissions from smart meters on humans, animals and the environment. There is no scientific data to determine if there is a safe RF exposure level regarding its non-thermal effects. Until science determines that level, we are all human guinea pigs.

For all of these reasons, and others, the City Council would be wise to vote “no” on the AMI project. If the Council is determined to approve this “inevitable” project, an affordable analog meter opt-out must be included. Residents should not be forced to pay for something that invades their privacy or puts their health and homes at risk.

Contact your council member to let them know how they should represent you before April 16.

Erin Talcott, Independence