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US Smart-Meter Concerns Waste Energy, Money

Negative perceptions about smart meters in the US is causing the country to fall behind Europe — and pay more for mismanaged energy — according to a Forbes.com guest post by Varun Nagaraj, senior vice president of product management and marketing at energy networking technology company Echelon Corporation.

Smart meters can also help reduce outages, which Nagaraj says cost the US as much as $150 billion a year.

After deploying smart meters, Swedish utility Eon experienced a 56 percent reduction in meter and invoice-related customer service calls, and halved its meter complaints, Nagaraj writes.

Similarly, Denmark’s SEAS-NVE saw a 10 times better than expected complaint rate, which never exceeded .5 percent.

At the start of 2012, Nagaraj says, there were about 100 solar installations on the SEAS-NVE grid. To date, there are more than 3,500 adding 36MW to the grid. Nagaraj says SEAS-NVE expects to save more than $1 million from these solar installations;  when each of the utility’s 380,000 residents install solar, the company will save more than $100 million.

According to Forbes.com, smart meter technology in European uses power lines to communicate, instead of radio frequency, which is used in the US. This allows European utilities to avoid radio-frequency related health and privacy concerns, which have plagued US utilities like Pacific Gas & Electric.

In California, Santa Cruz County, Marin County and the cities of Capitola, Santa Cruz, Seaside, Marina, Ross and Fairfax have filed petitions with the state Public Utilities Commission against Pacific Gas & Electric’s smart meters, CBS News reports. The cities and counties want the state to allow individuals and entire communities the right to opt out.

Although regulators have repeatedly said smart meters are safe, utility customers across the US continue to express concern about the digital devices. Some users say radio waves emitted by smart meters have made them sick, and others raise privacy concerns about customer consumption data collected by the smart meters.

In October, Peco Energy resumed its Philadelphia-area smart-meter installation project, which the company suspended in August after several incidents in which the electronic devices overheated and caught fire.


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