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'Smart' Meters Installed Quietly in Belmont

Nearly 2,000 homes now equipped with two-way communications recording device. Yet the meters have met opposition elsewhere due to privacy and issued

Nearly one in five customers is now having their electrical consumption recorded by a "smart meter" which the utility has been installing since the beginning of the year, according to department officials.

BMLD General Manager Jim Palmer told the Light Department Advisory Board at its Monday, July 23 meeting, that 2,000 meters – which have the ability to relay electrical consumption use to the department on an almost immediate and constant basis – have been quietly placed by crews in residential and commercial buildings since Jan. 1.

The new devices – which have the capability to enable two-way communications between BMLD headquarters on Prince Street – have been replacing the most antiquated analog meters in the BMLD inventory, Palmer told Belmont Patch.

The goal is to have each of the approximately 10,000 BMLD customers on the new meters, yet Palmer does not have a date certain on when that will occur.

"This is a multiyear project," said Palmer, who said the biggest hurdle remains establishing communications stations around town. Like cell phone towers, they receive and relay information to and from the devise. The BMLD has place relay stations on the .

While the new meters will allow the utility to set different rates and offer incentives to customers to use energy prudently, "we won't be offering those ... until all consumers have (new meters)," said Palmer

According to the department, there has been no resistance to the change by customers, said Ralph Jones, a member of the Belmont Board of Selectmen and on the Advisory Board.

In Belmont and across the country, opponents have cited concerns related to safety and privacy that has halted similar drives in California and New York. In Texas recently, a woman brandished a loaded gun at a utility worker attempting to place a smart devise at her house.

The discussion of bringing smart meters to Belmont reached a peak two years ago when the BMLD participated in public meetings held by Sustainable Beimont in the winter of 2011.

When discussing the latest version of 'smart' electric meters, said using the most up-to-date technology to track household electricity consumption will "lower costs for everybody; poor people, rich people."

Fauth said Belmont could readily pick up this new technology because of the structure of the town's municipal electric company.

"You have a nimble, agile light department that is open to doing this. So it is exciting," he said.

Fauth said that smart meters can do what the current meters can't: Monitor voltage, distinguish timing electricity consumption, send outage alerts, disconnect and reconnect power, send usage information to in-home displays, control appliances and thermostats.

But citizens around the country have raised concerns over privacy and health as the meters communicate through radio frequency waves. Fauth said some people have reported sensitivity to radio waves and there is anxiety that anyone could hack into the system.

Waverly Watchdog July 25, 2012 at 06:46 PM
The BMLD, in its usual opaque manner, is installing this privacy invading technology without any meaningful public comment or input into the decision. They are using the illusion of a carrot, in the form of lowered bills, which will NEVER happen, to implement Big Brother in Belmont. Harvard profs are most all Progressives, and delight in ever more intrusion into private lives. Big, morte intrusive, government is their ideal. Just wait, the day will come when some Belmont Tzar will order electricity shut off, remotely, to somebody who is not "green enough"
David Chase July 25, 2012 at 11:58 PM
I think you're being a bit paranoid. The main goal of the smart meters is to (eventually) enable the options of both demand-sensitive pricing and smart appliances that can duck out when demand is high. The guy with the electric car that charges overnight using electricity that is dirt-cheap might like to get a discount. With a smart meter, he can. This also creates the possibility that people with solar panels (or even energy stored in electric car batteries, that they do not intend to use that day) can sell energy back to the system at the current spot price, rather than the average price. This will both make more energy available when demand is high, AND blunt spikes in the spot price. Smart meters allow a more efficient market for electricity, which is normally regarded (especially by libertarians and conservatives) as a good thing. If you want to worry, worry about whether the protocols for communicating with the meters are secure, and whether the systems that control them are secure. Despite your fantasies of a leftist eco-fascist takeover, the more likely risk is hacking. (See, for instance, the hacks on the Iranian uranium enrichment. Once it's been shown to be possible, more people are likely to try.)

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