Print 112 comment(s) - last by skildner.. on Jan 30 at 1:39 PM

City "exercise its right" to remove those looking to stand in the way of "progress"

In an incident that's sure to draw national attention, two women were dragged from their own backyards and arrested by police in Naperville, Illinois (a town located approximately 30 minutes west of Chicago) after they tried to block installation of the city's new smart meters.

President Obama has been pushing for a "smart grid" for some time, with more high-tech meters that can access more detailed information on power usage.  Proponents argue the high-tech meters cut down on waste and mistakes.  Critics cite a variety of concerns ranging from national security to health.

The two arrested women -- Jennifer Stahl and Malia "Kim" Bendis -- were leaders of an anti-smart meter group dubbed "Naperville Smart Meter Awareness".  The group's website links to a critical article on the project which points out its $23.6M USD cost, only $11M USD of which came from a federal grant.

Even Mark Curran the Naperville director of electrical utilities admits that the meter rollout has taken "longer than we anticipated", after being fraught with technical delays.

smart meter arrests
Arrest photos of Jennifer Stahl (left) and Malia Bendis (right) [Image Source: Naperville PD]

Aside from finances, though, there appears to be a relatively strong luddite component of the group's campaign to block the meters.  The group links to a number of speculative websites that compile information on the supposed "health risks" of smart meters.  The commentary on one site ( echoes the medically unfounded claims that similar campaigns have leveled against cell phone towers or Wi-Fi networks.  Comments the site:

This is of great concern because the exposure to microwave and radiowave radiation from these meters is involuntary and continuous. The transmitting meters may not even comply with Federal Communications Commission (FCC) "safety" standards ... However, those standards were initially designed to protect an average male from tissue heating (cooking) during a brief exposure. These standards were not designed to protect a diverse population from the non-thermal effects of continuous exposure to microwave and radiowave radiation. Therefore, these "safety" standards were not designed to protect the public from health problems under the circumstances which the meters are being used.

To date, there has been no comprehensive peer-reviewed work supporting the notion that Wi-Fi or cell phone signals cause cancer or other health effects, but that hasn't stopped critics from suggesting that undiscovered risks may indeed exist.

Smart Meter protesters
Naperville Smart Meter Awareness Board of Directors (L-R): Jennifer Stahl (Secretary), Kim Bendis (President), and Board Members Amanda Rykov, Lisa Rooney, Tom Glass
[Image Source: Naperville Smart Meter Awareness]

Despite the shaky science, one must wonder whether the city's strong-arm tactics are justified for citizens who don't want the meters.  Ms. Stahl's arrest came at 4:30 when police invaded her backyard with the installation crew after cutting the bicycle lock she used on her fence gate.  When police found Ms. Stahl standing in front of her old-fashioned "dumb" meter refusing to move, they arrested her and charged her with interfering with a police officer and preventing access to customer premises.

Ms. Bendis's arrest proceeded similarly.  She was charged with attempted eavesdropping and resisting a peace officer.

A defiant Ms. Stahl told reporters, "It was forced on my house today.  It was really a violation. I violated something, but I’ve been violated too so I guess we’re now in a society of violating one another.  I have not done the work of attempting to educate the community and advocating for the right of anybody in Naperville to refuse the smart meter just to stand off to the side."

Ms. Bendis declined to comment to reporters, citing advice from her lawyer.

Both women were released within hours.  City Manager Doug Krieger defends the arrests, commenting, "The previous installation attempts were met with some resistance and we wanted to ensure our employees’ safety.  The city has always had and maintains the right to access our equipment, and today we were simply exercising that right."

Smart Meter
The Elster Rex2 smart meter (left) is being installed in homes, supported by wireless stations attached to poles and other infrastructure (right).
[Image Source: Naperville Smart Meter Awareness/Elster]

While the cost is one reasonable criticism against smart meter projects, another more ground criticism is security.  Prominent sources, including defense contractor Lockheed Martin Comp. (LMT), have suggested that Chinese or other sophisticated rivals of the U.S. could "hack into" smart meter networks and use attacks to cripple or otherwise interfere with the U.S. power grid.  If this premise holds true it would represent a tremendous new national security risk.

Another interesting criticism comes from security researchers [PDF], who report that smart meter data, if carefully analyzed, could reveal intimate details of one's life.  For example, a house hooked up to smart water and electric meters could allow a third party to track when people shower, whether a home alarm is on, and how often people use their televisions.

Sources: Chicago Tribune, Daily Herald [Naperville]

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RE: Waste of money
By chmilz on 1/24/2013 3:56:05 PM , Rating: 1
Wow, prices went up over 10 years? This is a first!

And here I was all along thinking inflation was a naturally occurring part of economics and not a government scandal. Glad I've been properly educated.

RE: Waste of money
By arazok on 1/24/2013 4:14:34 PM , Rating: 3
Are you an idiot? The price almost doubled to 10 cents in 10 years. Inflation over that period is apx 25%.

RE: Waste of money
By tastyratz on 1/24/2013 4:28:21 PM , Rating: 4
whoa whoa whoa hold up your horses,
are you now exclaiming that we not only experience inflation... but that the cost of energy has risen in the last few years too?

Gas has tripled in the last 3 years. ONLY doubling your electric price sounds like a deal.

Here in the usa where I am I would kill for a 10c/kwh electric price nevermind 6c off peak. I pay 12/13c all day and it hasn't been much better than that for years..

RE: Waste of money
By JediJeb on 1/24/2013 4:45:09 PM , Rating: 3
I guess we are lucky here in Ky. My current rate is about $0.07/kWh.

RE: Waste of money
By Mr Majestyk on 1/24/2013 4:53:34 PM , Rating: 4
Stop whining, in Australia 10 years ago we had some of the cheapest electricity in the world, we now pay an off peak rate of 15-17c, a shoulder rate of 30-35c and an peak rate of 50-52c. We now have the highest rate of solar panel uptake in the world. We are now the most expensive place in the world for electricity and people are going broke trying to pay their bills. Bills typically average $500-1000 a quarter for a family of 4.

RE: Waste of money
By Director12 on 1/24/2013 5:15:52 PM , Rating: 2
Yep, I can confirm that.

Ours is typically $500-$800 per quarter, for a family of three in a 2 bedroom house. No aircon, TV is not on during the day etc. Our actually usage has remained the same or gone down a bit over the years but the prices have skyrocketed. It's a rort alright.

RE: Waste of money
By Spuke on 1/24/2013 5:15:30 PM , Rating: 2
Bills typically average $500-1000 a quarter for a family of 4.
Sounds like my propane bill.

RE: Waste of money
By ClownPuncher on 1/25/2013 11:32:41 AM , Rating: 1
Holy shit. That's expensive! I pay about $140 a quarter in the US. Family of 1, but still...

RE: Waste of money
By JediJeb on 1/25/2013 6:15:08 PM , Rating: 2
Not sure why you were rated down, because you are right, that is very expensive. Here I pay around $55-$65 per month in the height of the summer heat running my A/C and about $35-$45 in the winter depending on if I supplement the gas with a little electric heat in the bathroom.

Highest gas bill I have ever had was less than $100 when we had a few weeks of near 0F temps a few years ago, otherwise it normally runs $70 in the winter and $10 in the summer months.

RE: Waste of money
By Schrag4 on 1/25/2013 2:05:14 PM , Rating: 2
I don't know if I average $500-$1000 per quarter over the whole year, but $500 would be a bargain for electricity from June through August in Kansas, with the last couple of summers we've had anyway (sustained 100+F, sometimes over 110).

RE: Waste of money
By menting on 1/24/2013 4:32:03 PM , Rating: 3
cost of energy doesn't necessarily scale exactly with inflation. Price of gas is ~350% compared to 15 years ago, which amounts to ~8.7% increase per year, but inflation is definitely lower than that.

RE: Waste of money
By euclidean on 1/24/2013 4:32:59 PM , Rating: 2
And what has your power cost increased to over 10 years? In the Midwest, I would have to say that cost for Energy has increased very the question would be if they had not done what they did in Ontario, where would the cost be now?

Inflation is not applied equally across all industries...

RE: Waste of money
By arazok on 1/25/2013 10:35:12 AM , Rating: 2
Comparing power costs to that of gasoline, propane, or oil is a poor metric. While those fuels have certainly seen significant price increases, I can at least appreciate that that’s due to global supply and demand.

Here in Ontario, almost 80% our electricity is from Hydro and Nuclear. Those are mostly fixed cost sources and have not seen any major cost changes outside of inflation.

Our costs have spiked because of programs like the smart meter roll out, as well as a disastrous Green Energy plan that has required a multi-billion dollar upgrade to our transmission network, a phase out of Coal, and heavily subsidized rates for wind turbines and solar panels (The government pays 60 cents a KwH for these sources, and we windmills popping up everywhere, and people leasing their roofs for solar panels). In order to deal with the variability of wind/solar, Gas powered backup plants are being built all over the province at huge cost.

Our hydro rates are forecast to increase another 50% over the next 5 years.

And at the end of this multi-billion dollar boondoggle, we will see only 5% of our energy from green sources.

The irony is that the government rolled out this massive plan to prop up their environmental bragging rights. Then a few years later when reality hit and the costs of those plans began to show on hydro bills, people began to freak out. So they introduced a hydro subsidy and gave us all a 10% discount on our hydro. This money was borrowed and drove up our deficit. The government likely to lose the next election.

So the people demanded a green energy program, got it, saw reality, and will now fire the people who implemented it. We get the government we deserve.

RE: Waste of money
By svenkesd on 1/25/2013 2:48:21 PM , Rating: 2
Just to clarify, if the price of something doubles in 10 years the approximate inflation rate is 7% per year.

"My sex life is pretty good" -- Steve Jobs' random musings during the 2010 D8 conference

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