When Will the Smart Meter Insanity End?

Originally posted on


There have been a number of articles appearing in the national media over the past few weeks outlining the dangers and risks of so-called “smart” utility meters.  The smart grid mouthpiece website SmartGridNews.com even ran an article called, “Smart meters trapped between benefits and dangers, claims Forbes.”   In quoting the Forbes article, SmartGridNews.com stated:

“Despite the promise of empowering people through enhanced consumption data… some people are scared and resist the idea of smart metering, citing concerns about meter accuracy, data security, and health,” wrote Forbes contributor Federico Guerrini.  “Privacy is probably the most sensitive issue:  similarly to what happens with phone calls metadata, information about the energy consumption of a family or of an individual, can reveal a lot of details about the life of the persons monitored.”

Hacker's Backdoor.1Beyond issues over meter accuracy, data security, health, and privacy mentioned above, components of the smart grid (including smart meters) dramatically increase the cyber threat to the electrical grid.  This threat is not limited to personal health and security risks but also poses a serious threat to our national security as well.

Just last month, an article was featured on this website about the nightmare scenario posed by smart meters when they get hacked.

Now, in July, a new article was featured at Bloomberg.com regarding hackers finding an open back door to the power grid.  According to the Bloomberg.com article:

“Making the electricity grid greener is boosting its vulnerability to computer hacking, increasing the risk that spies or criminals can cause blackouts.”

“Adding wind farms, solar panels and smart meters to the power distribution system opens additional portals through which hackers can attack the grid, according to computer security experts advising governments and utilities.”

“The communication networks and software that link green energy sources to the grid as well as the electronic meters that send real time power usage to consumers and utilities are providing new back-door entry paths for computer hackers to raise havoc with the grid.  The disclosure this week that hackers known as ‘Dragonfly’ and ‘Energetic Bear’ gained access to power networks across the U.S. and Europe in the past 15 months is a reminder of how vulnerable the system has become.”

“In the past, all power use was measured by mechanical meters, which required a utility worker to inspect and read them.  Now, utilities are turning to smart meters that communicate data on flows minute by minute both to customers and utilities.”

“’Anytime you introduce more software, you introduce more complexity and inevitably more potential holes to the system,’ said Gavin O’Gorman, a threat intelligence analyst at Symantec Corp. (SYMC), the security company based in Mountain View, California, that identified the ‘Dragonfly’ threat.”  [See post entitled "Dragonfly: Western Energy Companies Under Sabotage Threat."]

For example, smart meters contain a relay that can disconnect a household from the power supply.  As explained by Nick Hunn, chief technology officer at WiFore, a U.K.-based wireless technology consultant: “This is controlled by the utility from a computer keyboard.  Since the same code goes into all meters, it would take just one small piece of code inserted by a rogue programmer to disconnect the power from millions of meters and disable the remote connection to the utility.”

As reported by Bloomberg.com, the energy industry is currently the most targeted sector in the United States, “accounting for 59 percent of the 256 attacks recorded last year by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.”

Also reported is that “almost all the specifics of the incidents are kept quiet to prevent damage to the companies victimized.”  In other words, information related to risks and actual attacks on our power grid is being deliberately suppressed and withheld from the public.  This policy of suppressing risk related information regarding the smart grid and smart meters completely contradicts the recommendations from a U.S. General Accounting Office report released in 2011 which stated:

“Consumers are not adequately informed about the benefits, costs, and risks associated with smart grid systems.  …  As a result, until consumers are more informed about the benefits, costs, and risks of smart grid systems, utilities may not invest in, or get approval for, comprehensive security for smart grid systems, which may increase the risk of attacks succeeding.”

Despite the risks and the almost daily revelations of danger and harm, the utilities blindly move forward deploying smart meters like mindless robots sowing the seeds of our own destruction.  That may sound a bit melodramatic but yet one needs to ask:  “What would it take to stop this ill-fated and  irrational   exercise in wasted resources?”

Furthermore, SmartGridNews.com in another story on July 1st acknowledged that smart meters are effectively of no value to our electrical grid when it stated:

“… thus far, spending on the smart grid has been dominated by smart meters that allow more granular and frequent readings and the transmission of that data to the utility, eliminating the old-fashioned meter reader.  But just adding a communications feature to the meters is not deeply game-changing; it is the equivalent of installing a speedometer and gas gauge without a steering wheel and brakes.”

When and how will the insanity on smart meters end?   Since in the words of SmartGridNews.com we are currently traveling “without a steering wheel and brakes,” the chances of this journey ending safely without a catastrophic event are not good. 

Consumers need to work together on a massive scale to first “apply the brakes” on this fiasco and then turn us in a different direction before it is too late.

Addendum:  Latest News from the U.K.

As was stated above, there appears to be daily revelations about the risks related to smart meters, yet the governments and utilities continue to install them as if they are mindless robots. Current news reports out of the U.K. drive this point home.  As reported this week by The Telegraph, “Smart Meters’ to Be Put in Every British Home Despite Fears They May Not Work,” and:

“The £11 billion Government plan to put ‘smart meters’ into every British home will be launched this week despite fears they may not work and could open the national grid up to cyber -terrorists.”

“A risk assessment carried out by the energy watchdog, Ofgem, has … identified ‘a range of threats such as cyber, viruses and malicious software.’”

“Margaret Hodge, the chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, said:  ‘This is a typical Government project – they set up a big scheme but don’t think about the costs to the consumer because it’s being driven by the energy companies.  This expensive equipment is already out-of-date, because we could get the information on our smartphones.  The Government should really think about the technology they are using and make sure that the consumer benefits.’”

In addition, the CBR technical blog reports that:

“… official documents found that the meters will not work in a third of British homes, including high-rise flats, basements and rural houses.  This is because the meters use wireless communication method ZigBee to transfer the information, which does not work in building[s] with thick walls or multi-story flats.”

The meters won’t work in a third of British homes?  What more can we say?  There is nothing “smart” about this “insanity,” and it must end now.

Courtesy Take Back Your Power
Courtesy: Josh del Sol

About the Author

K. T. Weaver is a health physicist who was employed in the nuclear division of a leading electric utility for over 25 years.  He served in various positions, including Station Health Physicist, Senior Health Physicist, corporate Health Physics Supervisor, and corporate Senior Technical Expert for Radiobiological Effects.  K.T. Weaver has earned a B.S. in Engineering Physics and an M.S. in Nuclear Engineering with a specialty in radiation protection.

Links Referenced in this Blog Article:

Posted in Citizen rebellion, Democracy, Federal Government, health effects, Privacy, Safety, Smart Grid, Take Back Your Power | Leave a comment

Another Fire: Landis + Gyr Smart Meter Causes Apt. Blaze

Courtesy of Smartmeterharm.org:

This apartment fire occurred in Bensalem, Pennsylvania on February 6, 2014.

      • 14 families were displaced
      • 7 apartments had fire damage, 5 had significant damage
      • 11 apartments had smoke and water damage
      • 1 firefighter was injured

It was caused by a Landis + Gyr Smart Meter that exploded and caught fire, and set the apartment building on fire.

Bensalem Battalion Chief Robert Sponheimer told the Bucks County Courier Times that the fire started in a utility meter in an outside shed that housed electrical meters.

“…residents reported hearing a loud bang, then losing power Thursday evening. Within minutes they saw smoke pouring out of the shed. The fire then spread to the building and its roof, Sponheimer said.”

“The meter itself is the cause of the Bensalem fire, not arcing and not the wires, per the Bensalem Fire Marshal.”

A full account by Skyvision Solutions can be read here.

Pennsylvania’s utility company PECO halted Smart Meter installation in August 2012 because of meters overheating and catching fire. They were using Sensus Smart Meters, Elster, and L + G at the time. There was a state investigation. Sensus Smart Meters were declared safe, but PECO began replacing all Sensus meters with Landis + Gyr Smart Meters.

Change in manufacturer makes no difference.

A Landis + Gyr Smart Meter in Ontario, Canada flew off an apartment building and caught fire.

The fire that killed Larry Nikkel in California was started by a Landis + Gyr Smart Meter.

Pacific Gas and Electric uses Landis + Gyr.

The EMF Safety Network has maintained an extensive list of Smart Meter fires, explosions, and electrical damage.

California and the West are facing a terrible drought. Most places are tinder dry.

A Smart Meter fire in a dry, forested region would become a catastrophe quickly, affecting many homes and residents.

Having Smart Meters on homes and businesses is a terrible risk for every community.

If you think that our governments, utilities, and fire departments have our families’ safety as their first priority, think again.   It’s up to us to protect the safety and health of our families, and that means doing whatever is necessary to get these meters off your home and out of your community.

Posted in Changing a Meter, Fires, PG&E | 1 Comment

Smart Meter Scourge Targets UK with Propaganda


This analog meter installed inside a home in Bristol, UK, is fitted with a coin activated pre-pay meter, an attempt by utilities to avoid students moving out and not paying their bills.  Meters in the UK are typically located inside the home, providing a practical advantage to resist smart meters- just don’t answer the door.

Smart meters are now being installed in the UK haphazardly, house by house without the regimented deployments that have riled neighborhoods in the US, Canada, and Australia.  The UK government has delayed the systematic roll-out of smart meters but still claim they will be in every home in the UK by 2020 (though of course they have no legal mandate to force them on private property as elsewhere).  The UK government claims that the meters are voluntary but Big Energy is duping customers into believing that they are mandatory.

Energy companies are keen to avoid the kind of public relations disasters that have engulfed and derailed smart meter programs elsewhere, planting misleading propaganda into British newspapers, and trying to make the public believe these stupid things are really necessary.  Serious doubts have been raised by our UK counterpart StopSmartMeters.Org.Uk at the parliamentary level about the wisdom of such a scheme. (see video below).  Shortly after SSM UK’s testimony, the Dept. of Energy and Climate Change announced a yearlong delay in the program.  A detailed report on the UK’s smart metering scheme that includes opposition testimony can be found in pdf form here.

It’s not that British energy companies are so much kinder and gentler than in the US.  It’s that they know if they behave like thugs and disconnect people who have paid their bills, the British public will simply not tolerate it.   People in the UK are aghast when I tell them that the local power company in the US cut off our family even though we pay our bills.   They shake their head and say it could never happen in England.  People just wouldn’t allow it.

Perhaps this community spirit is left over from the blitz in WWII where Londoners had to hide in Underground stations to avoid German bombs.   The National Health Service (NHS) emerged from this trauma and the British would not tolerate its loss (though an ill-advised privatization scheme is being hotly debated, and ushered in through the back door at the moment).

Energy companies have been targeting low income families around the UK for smart meter deployment, according to Mike Mitcham of SSM UK.  Being able to remotely disconnect these households is one major benefit to the utilities.  Energy companies are also promoting “smart” meters as a solution to energy poverty – a little like promoting high interest loans as a solution to debt.

The grassroots movement against smart meters in the UK and elsewhere continues to grow.  Walking around London I have seen SSM UK posters in people’s windows, so it is clear the word is getting out.   Can the utility companies sneak these radiating spy meters into people’s homes before they grasp what is at stake?  It remains to be seen.   Bottom line here is that if communities get aware, then organize and refuse, we have the power to take on even the biggest corporations.  We just have to believe in- and take back- our own power.

Posted in Britain, Changing a Meter, Citizen rebellion, Class Issues and Social Equality, Democracy, Smart Grid | 4 Comments

London’s Black Cabs Join Global Revolt Against “Smart”

London's cabbies are all atwitter over smart phone app Uber

London’s cabbies are all atwitter over smart phone app Uber

I’m still in the UK giving talks, meeting with our allies, and spending time with family and friends,  planning to return to the US in a week via cargo ship.

Here in London, on Wednesday, the center of the city was gridlocked with more than 10,000 honking (hooting) black cabs.

Tourists wandered around perplexed as to what the fuss was all about.

The fuss- which has been building for months and on June 11 saw simultaneous taxi driver protests in London as well as Berlin, Madrid, Rome, and Paris- was in response to the transportation corporation and smart phone app Uber- which has come under fire for its predatory approach to the transportation market. In San Francisco where the firm is based, an Uber taxi driver with no commercial license and distracted by his smart phone ran over and killed a 6 year old girl on New Year’s eve last year.

Such deaths and injuries are becoming more frequent on SF’s streets, possibly the result of a deadly combination of dependencies on motor vehicles and smart phones.  A combination that Uber is capitalizing on, encouraged by regulators who don’t mind sacrificing human life under the wheels of a car or at the tip of a smart meter microwave antenna if it will make millions for their investor pals like Goldman Sachs.

A wrongful death lawsuit by the girl’s family has been filed against the company.

The website Labor Notes says companies like Uber are part of a larger trend to sacrifice safety, eliminate workers rights, while further consolidating wealth:

“Under the guise of a progressive-minded “sharing economy,” rich companies like Uber, Airbnb, and Taskrabbit are dissecting work into smaller, discrete tasks—a way to evade regulations that once protected workers, and to saddle workers with costs and risks that employers once covered.”   More here.

Facilitating the emergence of Uber in California was the same compromised state agency that brought us the smart meter- the California Public Utility Commission, chartered by the state’s constitution to make utility and transportation services reliable and protect the public’s health and safety but instead doing the opposite, using your tax dollars to bore the hell out of you and then when you’re not paying attention, take your money and your health.

And it’s the same story in many states and other countries.

The stress of keeping up a normal edifice of an institution rotten to the core is evidently getting to CPUC President Michael Peevey.  He recently lashed out at an attorney representing the public who was asking too many tough questions, yelling “I’m not here to answer your goddamn questions- now SHUT UP!”.  Actually Mr. Peevey that’s precisely why you are here.

The world seems dizzy with the euphoria of “smart” wireless technology- the internet of things- the cloud and promise of constant connection.  Like any drug, there is always a downside and the other edge of the sword is becoming increasingly apparent. One of these days we are going to wake up with a massive smart hangover- and unfortunately there is no app yet devised that will cure that headache.

Whether or not London’s taxi drivers are aware of it, they are part of a global backlash against smart technology and tech abuses that has blockaded smart meter installation trucks, buses carrying employees to Google and Facebook, and protested gentrification and forced relocations in the San Francisco Bay Area and elsewhere.

This is not just about the individual phenomenon of smart meters or app-based taxi networks but a wholesale corporate harvesting of our essential systems- our transportation networks, our water, gas, and electric utilities, accommodation and our communications infrastructure.   These systems we depend on generate obscene profits for the select few who have little regard (and often outright hostility) to concerns about how new policies and technologies will affect society or the rights of individuals.

In the case of the taxi industry, how will the growth of Uber affect the quality and safety of transportation in cities around the world?  For those who choose not to use (or can’t afford or are sensitive to the radiation from) smart phones how will their transportation choices be affected?

One can imagine a not too distant future where you are standing on a street corner in a busy city needing to get across town with hundreds of empty taxis (with drivers and without) passing you by because they haven’t received a request from your smart phone.  You vainly put your hand out but no one pays attention.  The machine rolls on.  In Uber’s world, using your hand to hail a cab is unacceptably obsolete and unbearably analog.

Even though it works.

“Smart” is deaf to human cries of pain or protest unless they are translated into the comfortable and sterile left brain language of ones and zeroes.

Such technologies promise convenience and connectivity, but the reality is that they:

  • erode safety, the environment and human health
  • violate your privacy
  • create a monopolistic arrogant world that destroys choice
  • damage the social environment by separating us with screens
  • consume more electricity
  • cost us more in the long run

What do we risk by simply going along with this agenda?

A future where if you don’t “choose” a radiation pulsing smart meter on your home then you can “choose” to live without electricity.

A future where your children are deprived of education unless you pay a large amount of money or allow them to be bathed in carcinogenic radiation all day.

A future where expectation of constant social media availability drives device dependency and social alienation.

A future where unless you are willing to blindly jump headfirst into “the cloud” without hesitation, you are ostracized and ridiculed, fined, harassed, interrogated, and arrested.   Basically turned into a second class citizen.

A future where our valuable wired and analog public telephone network is dismantled and copper wire sold off, making our communications system as unreliable and poor quality as the electricity from the newly vulnerable “smart” grid that services like Skype depend on.

Such worrying future scenarios are looking increasingly like the present.

It’s one thing to make the mistake of drifting into such a future through blind obsession with technology- it is quite another for us to allow so-called political “leaders” to do so without public input or debate. Especially when the warning signs are all around us.  It’s downright Orwellian.

London (and all of us) will suffer a huge cultural loss if one can no longer stick your hand out and hail a proper black cab with a knowledgeable, safe trained driver.  If you can no longer find a public pay phone in an emergency.  If you can no longer get utilities in your home without revealing your private activities and exposing your family to radiation.

“Smart” progress is no progress at all.  It is a regression to a new dark age, a diminishing of quality in favor of quantity, a boring corporate utilitarian view of the world that makes our lives duller, shorter, and more expensive.

We can use wise technology in a way that empowers people and improves our quality of life but sadly that is not the current trajectory. It is up to us to change direction.

European taxi drivers found their voice this week and made it clear that some arrogant American company cannot so easily cross the pond and disrupt a system that has worked well for decades.  Uber has tried to spin the protests as luddites acting out- the same argument that has been used against smart meter protestors.  It didn’t hold water then and it doesn’t now.    Expect global grassroots protests to swell as the toll of this multinational “Smart” agenda grows.

Eventually, like so many bubbles before, it will burst.  Rather than worrying about how to stop it from growing, maybe we should start talking about how to pick up the pieces and move forward after its inevitable demise.

Posted in Britain, California, Cell phones, Citizen rebellion, Class Issues and Social Equality, CPUC, Democracy, Electro-Hyper-Sensitivity, Environmental Concerns, landlines, neighborhood organizing, Privacy, radio-frequency radiation, Safety, Smart Grid | Leave a comment

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Posted in California, Cancer, Cell phones, Citizen rebellion, Democracy, FCC, Federal Government, health effects, legal issues, neighborhood organizing, radio-frequency radiation, Smart Grid, World Health Organization | Leave a comment