Why “Smart” Meters are a Class Issue


As class riots engulf the UK and the global economy teeters on a precipice, it seems the right time to take a look at how the forced “smart” meter installations now affecting many parts of California and other states are at their root, a class issue.

“Social classes don’t exist in the United States” we hear ringing in our ears.  Nearly everyone- from those living in trailer parks to those inhabiting sprawling hillside mansions- has been well trained to consider themselves “middle class.”  However,  the broad definition of “middle class” obscures important differences in who benefits and who suffers under the current system.

Decisions about whether, when, and how to undertake one of the largest technology rollouts in history-involving billions of our dollars- have been made by a small number of utility and industry executives, in collusion with government officials largely in backrooms, with virtually no consultation- or even notification of the public.

Wealthy people who live in large homes aren't exposed to banks of meters like this one on a low income housing complex in Berkeley, CA

Let’s just come out and say it- “smart” meters benefit the ruling class at the expense of the working class.  What do we mean by this?

1)    The working class tend to be renters, and live in large apartment blocks with little choice about their proximity to large banks of meters, while the upper class tend to live in detached homes, with control over their meters.  Wealthier people in larger homes also have the luxury of choosing to spend more time away from their meter, at the other end of their large homes.  How many PG&E executives are living with “smart” meters on their bedroom walls?

2)    Increases in utility costs- approved by the CA PUC and other state regulatory agencies to pay for the dumb meters that we never asked for, are essentially a regressive tax- consuming a much larger proportion of household income for poor households than rich.  How much money (and pollution) would have been saved if the federal government had spent all these billions on efficiency improvements,  insulation and local renewable energy projects instead of a technocratic boondoggle?

3)    Time of use pricing- which “smart” meters enable- will allow utilities to charge more for electricity during hot days when industry needs it and when air conditioning demand is high.  Many low income people are at home during the day and don’t have a choice when they use electricity.  Many work from home, or care for elderly or sick relatives.  Under a time of use system, while rich executives are at work using little electricity at their homes, many poor people will be at home needing to use appliances to keep their lives running- but under a time of use system they will be penalized for this.  In practice, this means that working class people will end up doing their laundry in the middle of the night or on weekends, especially in large apartment buldings where everyone shares a small laundry room.   The utilities apparently expect working people to give up their limited time to spend with their families and rest up for the coming work day, to accommodate industry and its insatiable appetite for power. This inequitable situation has been at the center of the AARP’s demand for more consumer protections as smart meters are installed.

A family of 3 were killed in Oakland last December because of extension cords strung together after PG&E cut off the family's electricity. Remote disconnects are made possible by "smart" meters and may become far more frequent than today, when a human being still has to pull the switch.

4)    If a low income household cannot pay their bill, PG&E has been ruthless in switching them off, leading to safety issues as extension cords are often strung together to provide the light and heat people need for their families.  This leads to house fires, like the one last December in which an East Oakland family of three perished in what was essentially a preventable tragedy.  With the “smart” meter, the utility can switch you off remotely, regardless of unique situations like medical equipment being operated in the home.   With the analog meter, they had to send a human being out to disconnect your service (and make sure this doesn’t kill someone).   There are already cases of people being incorrectly billed for their neighbors usage because of the unreliable nature of wireless technology- how long before a mistaken disconnection occurs and someone dies when the wireless signals get crossed?

"Smart" Meters enable time of use pricing, with vast potential to make working class energy customers suffer. If households are allowed to pay to remain connected, what will happen to those not able to afford that "privilege"?

5)    Though the utilities and the government would never admit it, there is the very real possibility of widespread, intentional disconnections- along economic dividing lines- during peak demand as we enter an age of constrained energy supplies.   Familiar with the concept of HOT lanes or “Lexus Lanes” common in California?  These allow drivers who can afford to pay $10 or so to enter the carpool lane and fly by the hot and congested masses even if they are only a single driver.   Imagine it’s the year 2016 and we are sweltering in a hot August afternoon.   Several months back, you tore up the notice from your utility offering “energy stability” because you couldn’t afford the extra fee associated with the service.   As 2pm rolls around, you get an automated phone call from the utility telling you that your electricity is about to be switched off.  Your 80 year old mother in the other room swelters in the heat as you gaze up at the large home on the hill whose residents are enjoying cold margaritas and an air conditioned living space thanks to the extra fee they paid to the utility.  (Perhaps they made this money from poor ratepayers, through PG&E’s guaranteed 11.5% return on investment.)  Cool.

6)    If you are poor, you are statistically more likely to suffer from health problems associated with stress, and exposure to polluted environments (from car exhaust, noise, industrial pollutants, as well as emf electrosmog from cell towers, and “smart” meters.)   If the new meters make you sick- as they have done to thousands of innocent Californians- you are less likely to be able to afford quality health care to treat your illness or disease.  If  the Class 2B carcinogen pulsing out 24/7 from your smart meter gives you cancer, don’t expect the utility to take care of you.

The (predominantly) rich white men in suits who designed this program are well rewarded for their arrogance and recklessness with our money.  That’s the way the system works.

Take for example the astronomical- even absurd salary packages of top utility company executives.  When Peter Darbee, former CEO of PG&E Corp. announced his “retirement” in April partly in response to the growing revolt over dumb meters, he was to receive a $35 million retirement package, mostly out of ratepayer funds.  After nervous twittering that this was going to look really bad, Gov. Jerry Brown sought to separate himself from the utility (even though his top advisor Nancy McFadden also works for PG&E) and demanded that shareholder funds – not ratepayer funds- pay for Darbee’s luxurious retirement.  Darbee still walked away with $35 million of our money, just not quite as directly a cashflow from our wallet to his, as that would have been politically problematic.

CA State Parks like the jewel of China Camp in Marin County are being shut down by the state even as utility executive salaries soar.

Now to put this kind of money in perspective,  if you decided to be generous and let Mr. Darbee keep $13 million for his retirement, you would still have enough money from this monstrous package ($22 million) to keep all 70 of CA’s state parks threatened with closure- open for the next two years.

So there you have it- ONE rich man getting a super duper cushy retirement instead of just a very cushy retirement, as critical natural and recreational resources for a state with a population of 40 million get flushed down the toilet.   Boy, you are a real fighter for the people, Jerry Brown.

The point is that the people making these decisions don’t care about your family.   They don’t care about your health, your financial stability, or preserving your privacy.  They don’t care about the environment or the future.   They do care about amassing ever larger piles of money, money that will end up being just about as useful as kindling when the environment is so destroyed and resources all consumed that we can’t even produce enough food to fill supermarket shelves.

It’s time that we stop giving these clowns our power and start realizing that we have the right to safe, reliable utility service at reasonable rates.” That we have a right to reject stupid meters from our homes, as well as our communities.  That those who suffer from electro-sensitivity have a right to participate freely in society.  And that those who are attempting to take away those rights from the majority are in fact- the minority.  No amount of propaganda or buck-passing can obscure that basic fact.  Class dismissed.

This entry was posted in Citizen rebellion, Class Issues and Social Equality, CPUC, Democracy, Electro-Hyper-Sensitivity, Oakland, PG&E, Safety, Time of Use Pricing. Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to Why “Smart” Meters are a Class Issue

  1. Susan says:

    Josh is right … the poor and lower classes will suffer more from smart meters. The larger your house and property, the easier it is to get away from them. In my small house, avoiding the hellish symptoms that I get from being near the smart meter means losing 1/3 of the use of my house and yard. I have to sleep in the living room, cannot go in my own bedroom or use the master bathroom. I have lost 500 square feet of use from a 1600 sq. foot home. Wealthy people might be able to still be in a bedroom. People in apartments or homes with the meters in the middle, or neighbors’ meters aimed at them are in even worse shape with nowhere to go to escape the painful, damaging emissions. This is a direct assault on the poorer classes and YES, we certainly do have these in America. I think there would be rioting in the streets here if people understood how harmful these meters are and that we are getting no help ending this insane program. When was the last time you heard that it was legal to kill someone and you could do nothing about it when someone tried? That is what we have here.

  2. Anna Logg says:

    The program is appalling. The pricing tiers will directly hurt low income, disabled, elderly, and people with small children at home. Energy abusers/hogs will pay *less* per unit than those of us who actually turn off the lights when we leave a room and set our thermostats a few degrees lower. Is that an incentive to “save” energy, as their slick ad campaign would lead you to believe smart meters are all about? It’s obvious this program has nothing to do with being green or saving energy, it has everything to do with control and making MONEY.

    My analog meter is locked up and if they want to remove it they will literally have to go through me, and there will be a storm of bad press, so good luck with that, PiGEe.

    Everyone, LOCK UP YOUR METERS!!! Got a “smart” meter? Find an electrician to replace it with an analog and LOCK IT UP! Don’t let this utility monopoly push you around. They depend on us for revenue!!! We have the power in this relationship, exercise it!

    btw, I started hanging my clothes to dry (instead of using elec. dryer) and my bill went down $30/month. Didn’t need a stupid meter, just a clothesline and clothespins.

  3. Redi Kilowatt says:

    Hi Ana,
    I have been line drying my clothes for decades, you are right, it saves energy and the bonus is the laundry smells fresh. I don’t use cleaners with perfume either.
    But, it is the poorer people who live in condos, town homes and apartments. They do not own the buildings or grounds, so most corporations have a thick set of by-laws that forbid line drying of clothes, and many other things. People who live in shared wall communities have no choice but to pay more for energy, give up privacy and freedom.
    Oh, no solar panels or electric vehicles allowed either in condo complexes.
    The communitarian way of cramming people into high density housing buildings built in urban areas seems to be what some want to be the way of the future, but it is actually destructive because the new age living does not promote alternate energy or growing your own food. Sorry, no room.

  4. Jayne McPherson says:

    We are on the same wave…Just what I was thinking just before I read your article. Thank You!

  5. Soula says:

    Yes, very good article. Thanks for putting all these points together, Josh.

  6. Soapbox Jill says:

    Do you think all the people pushing for the smart grid were rich, white men? The creators of this horrible technology include people in business AND government (such as in the PUBLIC utilities and utility commissions, the president and our legislators) and anyone else in POWERFUL positions (electrician organizations, etc.)

    Please, let’s not play into class/race warfare. NO ONE should be subjected to these emissions in their living space. Just because you have three bedrooms and two baths doesn’t mean you can feel well in your home. But yes, I feel for those in apartment buildings because of the multiple meters. They also suffer from other people’s wifi, dect phones and baby monitors. Apartment people suffering include another group, the elderly, of all sexes and races. So, please, let’s keep the class/race stuff to a minimum. We ALL sink or swim together, and I will be working for all my brothers and sisters on this issue so they will not have to live through what I am today.
    Love to all

  7. Soapbox Jill says:

    Sorry, but one more point here. Many of the heroes in this are “white men” (don’t know how “rich” they are): Ted Litovitz, Olle Johansson, David Carpenter, Z.R. Glaser. There are plenty of heroines, too, such as Dr. Havas and Cindy Sage. We need every last one of these advocates and researchers. Bless them all!

    • DumbFriendlyMeter says:

      I am from Canada and I remember PG&E’s 1993 Erin Brockovich… Those utility companies are not smart enough or powerful enough to get away from over 300 million Americans. Power is in your hands. Use it! Bonne chance!

  8. SOS Florida says:

    Very well written and to the point. Thanks to all the known and unknown heros who are fighting valiently and peacefully around the U.S. and Canada. Little by little our freedoms are vanishing. The Constitution is now held together by a thread and called irrelevant by some. If we give up a freedom it may be lost…………forever. God help us.

  9. Eric Hanson says:

    I am very much in agreement on the very reasonable concerns about so-called “Smart”Meters and even drove all the way from Dublin to assist Santa Cruz County in their own battle to avoid what has already become as good as done in my own Alameda County. The “class issue” stuff in this article below is primarily drivel and even a touch offensive. Still more importantly inclusion of this kind of leftist dogma here results in embarrassment to me and others who had been working hard to bring attention to this page as a tool to bring awareness to the real privacy and health issues that effect everyone.

    Keep well in mind that the greatest sponsors of liberal dogma, like George Soros himself are among the main forces driving “Smart”Meters, airport full-body scanners and other great risks to the health of the general population.

    Those with less means are indeed, apart from the possibility of more free time to participate in protest, less able to push back on issues that effect everybody. And as an example the many residents above or adjacent to banks of improperly collocated “Smart”Meters are paying in many cases a handsome mortgage on condos that were priced very near to $700k when they first made their rather risky investments in a rather modest and fairly high density place to live.

    Also it is people with means that are typically the champions when it comes to a push back on the prior hazards like Al Gore’s MTBE gas additive which the dopes at the EPA propped up in spite of veritable cries of bloody murder by the AMA.

    In a time when a great many “upper-middle-class” are finding themselves virtually penniless, laying off the Soros and friends sponsored “class” warfare would be a breath of fresh air (ideally served less the non-ionizing radiation).

    Perhaps painting a picture of “the rich” pissing into the poor man’s river might serve to activate a demographic that is needed if we are to render the evil will of the great oligarchy less effective against all of our rights, liberties and livelihoods, but this comes at the price of alienating another that also have a much at stake and are also the more likely to invest both the time and attention and their own investment in dollars that I am certain you recognized are badly needed in this fight.

    • Isis says:

      Hi Eric.

      It’s not clear to me what exactly you found offensive about Josh’s piece about class. You don’t really explain it. As someone in that working class ‘demographic’ (which is incidentally the majority of all people), I found the article validated my personal experiences, as well as those of many in my community.

      You wrote:

      “Those with less means are indeed, apart from the possibility of more free time to participate in protest, less able to push back on issues that effect everybody.”

      I’m trying very hard not to be offended by this myself, because it sounds to me like you think people with less means have more free time, which is not even remotely based on reality or logic, as those of us with less means are perpetually busy fending for our most basic survival. Whether we have to hold down 3 jobs to do it, or are begging in the street, or housebound and coping with disability, working class people are not part of the leisure class.

      I wonder if you are equating class as being about how much money someone has, when really it is about what people do to make a living. If that’s the case, then I recommend you read one of the articles Josh links to from his:


      And why would people with less means be less able defend our communities at large? Historically peasants, slaves, and other laborers have always stood up for our rights, and have changed social structures fundamentally. That is why the ruling class is making every effort to dismantle the organizations of the labor movement. There’s little that frightens those in power more than organized labor taking action at the point of production, especially when such action is taken by an entire industry, or several industries combined (ie. a general strike).

      We may not have the politicians’ ears, but then, why would we rely on politicians like Al Gore to change the status quo they are themselves complicit in maintaining? I would hardly call these people ‘champions’ of environmental or human rights. Begging politicians isn’t the only, let alone the best, approach to making change. See my article addressing some of the problems with this approach here:


    • Thanks for your comment, Eric. I respect your thoughts and appreciate you expressing them. The article was meant to demonstrate that the worst of the harm from the sm program is falling on the working class, not to say that wealthy people aren’t harmed, or that working class people aren’t sometimes assisting with the deployment. It is not an “us vs. them” issue besides the fact that at the root of it, it’s the utilities vs. the public (and that means all of us, regardless of our skin color, job, or bank account).

      There are quite a few wealthy (and not so wealthy) people who are generous with their money and appreciate what Stop Smart Meters! is doing. (And we appreciate it!) Many of them have been personally harmed by the smart meter program. We’ve taken a non-partisan approach to the issue and have helped to unite previously disparate elements of the American public. (who would have thought that the Tea Party and the Green Party would ever agree on anything!!??)

      We’re not out to point the finger at anyone (unless they have a hand in rolling out smart meters), but we must collectively acknowledge that there are in fact social classes in this country. i don’t believe we can fully understand the motivation for or the effects of this demonic installation process without at least acknowledging these differences.

      If you felt that we were pointing the finger at you just because of your race or class, then I apologize. That is not at all what we were trying to get across. Our director is in fact a white male from a relatively privileged background! Building up false us vs. them dichotomies is what the government and media do to prevent us from uniting in our own collective interest. Don’t buy into their divisive worldview!

      • Charyl Zehfus says:

        It is the political ruling class (of both parties) that refuses to update exposure standards and lets the wireless industry run rampant. The PUBLIC utilities are protected by the political ruling class and untouchable by the PUBLIC.

        It is time to throw out the political ruling class and get legislators in who represent THE PEOPLE, and care about that WE think and value, and defend HUMAN RIGHTS to choose a healthy environment for our own homes and neighborhoods.

  10. Howard Keylor says:

    I want to respond to Soapbox Jill “Please, let’s not play into class/race warfare” and to Eric Hanson “The “class issue” stuff in this article below is primarily drivel and even a touch offensive”.

    Warren Buffet, one the world’s top billionaires, is quoted as saying that a class war is taking place and we (the super rich) are winning it. Look at who controls the California state government from top to bottom: PGE, agribusiness, the pharmaceutical companies, the real estate developers etc. Nothing takes place unless it serves the interests of the corporations including the installation of Smart Meters. The “liberals” and often the top trade union leaders are either complicit in this total control or agents of corporate control. The tiny 1% of the U.S. population who own and control most of everything often don’t even live in the U.S. but jet back and forth between their palacial residences in islands off shore of Thailand, the Swiss Alps, the Bahamas etc. They don’t suffer from massive invasive electromagnetic pollution!
    Josh is to be commended for trying to appeal to the vast numbers of the working poor and even the urban middle class and extend the struggle to stop this dangerous technology beyond the disabled and the most physically vulnerable. Defeats and even limited roll backs against corporate crimes were always historically successful when they mobilized the vast majority of the population who are the victims of corporate class warfare!
    I am 85 years old and have diminished capacity to participate in social struggles but have been quite proud to have taken part in demonstrations against the Smart Meter plague. I was quite early on impressed at the militance of the participants and Josh’s articulate and intelligent leadership.
    I would remind you of a line from a Bob Dylan song: “The face of the enemy is often well hidden”. In point of fact it is the super rich stockholders of Pacific Gas & Electric Company who are the enemy!
    Either Soapbox Jill and Eric Hanson are ignorant of the basic social and economic facts about our enemy or they are among those of the corporate victims who identify with their oppressors.
    My disabled daughter, who is unusually electromagnetic sensitive, asked me once why the State of California would submit the upper middle class areas of Monterey County to ariel spraying during the early stages of the war on the mythical Light Brown Apple Moth “danger”. I replied that this class of Monterey County residents does not represent the upper reaches of agribusiness corporate ownership; that they are expendable!

    Howard Keylor

    • Charyl Zehfus says:

      The enemy is ANYONE promoting and installing and funding smart meters. Whatever their financial situation, creed, race, religion, etc.
      The problem as I see it is the “Public” utilities are untouchable by the public. This has got to stop.

  11. Deanna Munson says:

    .here in oregon,where no one seems to know about the health effects but me because they are making me increasingly ill,they want 51$ a month plus an initial fee off 254$ wich will hardly solve my problem of the other 153 meters at this apartment complex alone.hundreds of complexes here chock full o meters PLUS 5-7 or more deadly repeater antenaes too.trees are dying from the inside out,pine trees are burning alive,frogs are now extinct,bees birds and bats are being affected,and non of my “representatives”nor city hall could give a flying phuk.hope theyre all enjoying their new beach homes they got out of the deal.im physicly and mentally disabled.anyone who can help me with writing my officials in a more professional manner would be greatly apreciated.im in beaverton oregon…watching everything die

  12. Aimee Hogan says:

    I just found this article and wanted to let you all know that Maine has begun installing these meters. Mine was installed in mid-October and since then, my electric bill has at least doubled. It has completely messed with all of my electronic equipment and my cordless phone no longer works. I have no washer and dryer at my house and I have a gas stove that uses no electricity at all. My bill this month just using heat, lights and the refridgerator was $300. That is not even mentioning the fact that it is exacerbating my medical problems. We are now working with the Public Utilities Commission here in Maine to resolve some of these issues. It has been a nightmare!!

    • Electra says:

      I thought Maine was going by the federal law: You shouldn’t have a smart meter unless you’ve requested one. Here’s the landmark case from Maine – hope it helps!

      May 25, 2011
      Skelton, Taintor & Abbott Wins Landmark Smart Meter Case


      Category: Firm News

      On behalf of several Maine residents, Skelton, Taintor & Abbott secured a landmark decision that will benefit utility customers throughout the country. Alan Stone, chair of the firm’s energy law group, successfully convinced the Maine Public Utilities Commission (MPUC) to find that it was an unjust and unreasonable practice for Central Maine Power Company (CMP) to refuse to permit residential and small commercial customers to opt-out of CMP’s smart meter program.

      Skelton, Taintor & Abbott represented a group of customers in a complaint against CMP, and convinced the MPUC to order CMP to offer customers the option of opting out of the smart meter program and retaining their existing electromagnetic meters. Stone proved that because of unresolved concerns relating to health, privacy and cyber security resulting from the installation of wireless meters on their homes, customers should have a choice concerning the installation of those meters. CMP argued vigorously that customers should not be allowed to opt out, and the MPUC found that position to be unjust and unreasonable.

      The Portland Press Herald has described the decision as a “landmark” case that represents the first time any state had ordered an electric utility to permit customers the choice to opt out of a smart meter program. The case has been followed by other Public Utilities Commissions and utility experts around the country, and will serve as precedent for others in the determination of how to resolve what has become a growing debate about customer choice and smart meters.

      Alan Stone is also chair of the trial practice group at Skelton, Taintor and Abbott, and has been recognized by Best Lawyers in the area of Energy Law.


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