Since spring 2012, when the Baltimore Gas and Electric company began installing new electric meters, some residents of the city began to question whether the meters were really a good alternative to the traditional method of deducing electric consumption- having a person come to the house to “read the meter.”
“While it is beneficial for BGE’s bottom line, it is not for us or our families,” said Pikesville-area resident Frank Storch. “We pay the price by exposing ourselves to a serious health risk and by compromising our safety and privacy.”
The new meters send information about electric use over a wireless network. The information is transmitted hourly, and no employee is needed to travel to the customer for a reading of the meter, saving money for BGE. It can also help consumers save on their electric bill, since each customer’s usage can be tracked on-line, allowing BGE to make recommendations on how to lower their electric bill. BGE says the technology is safe, but many customers are not so sure, including Frank Storch.
Those opposed to the installation of the smart meters say that they emit high doses of radiation, which could be dangerous. They are also worried that the grid the data travels along is vulnerable to hacking. In addition the meters sometimes get hot enough to catch on fire, while all the data that BGE will collect about appliance usage can alert the utility to private information such as how many people are at home in a house at a particular time. Opponents add that there are no studies of substance which prove the devices are safe.
“The biggest challenge we have is educating the public,” said Jonathan Libber, president of Maryland Smart Meter Awareness, a group working to educate the public about the dangers of smart meters. “The utilities are counting on the fact that most people have no idea this is coming. This is a game changer.”