by Juliane Schiemenz, spiegel.de, 5 August 2014 (translated from German by Google and the Editor of this blog)
New smart meters collect detailed data on the households in which they are installed. Angry U.S. citizens are fighting these "smart meters". They fear monitoring and radiation - and are politically successful.
When Chris Turner from Washington DC goes to bed in the evening, he goes out of his living room into the garden and lies down in his trailer. Since one and a half years ago, he refuses to sleep in his house. The reason is its outer wall: a smart electricity meter. It measures Turner’s energy consumption down to the smallest detail and could reveal a lot: When is someone at home? What equipment is being used? What 's on TV ? Chris Turner feels monitored.
The 48-year-old lawyer would like most to tear it off the wall and replace it with the old analog meter. But this is forbidden. The smart meter was installed without Turner’s consent: "In the summer of 2012, I was away for a month and when I came back, I was told the smart meter is now in operation," he says. "Then there was an increase in my electricity bill, it was strange." He had made contact with his current supplier and discovered, "that there were people everywhere in the United States, Canada and Australia who complained about rising bills, and also fire and health problems after installation of a smart meter."
Hats made of aluminum foil?
Turner also says that he has since then been suffering from physical ailments. He complains of headaches, tinnitus and sleep problems. He attributes this to the electromagnetic radiation emitted by the smart meter, when it transmits data to the power company every second. Turner did not want to sleep near that thing. He began to stay with friends who did not have a smart meter on the house and sometimes camped in his garden. In the fall, he finally bought a caravan.
The silver trailer is now on Turner's meadow like a UFO. It would be easy to dismiss the lawyer as a paranoid conspiracy theorist who probably tinkers with aluminum foil hats against the radiation - after all, there is still no evidence of health damage caused by electrosmog. But Turner is part of a nationwide movement. On his website, he railed against the urban utility Pepco, distributed flyers at political events and legally supports other activists.
The anti-smart meter movement is growing as rapidly as the smart meter network. Now it even has its own movie: " Take Back Your Power "directed by Josh del Sol. The filmmaker documents the actions of the activists, speaks with experts and tried - in vain - to get opinions from the power company. Josh del Sol, who lives near Seattle, estimates that a million people now belong to the movement across North America and there are activist groups in more than 40 countries. "Some areas are very active," says Del Sol, "for example, British Columbia where 200,000 people have refused the installation of smart meters for 1.8 million households."
"Why is this topic nowhere discussed?"
Del Sol, a former web developer said that he had asked himself: "Why is this issue nowhere discussed?" He began to conduct interviews together with a cameraman. "I myself was working on this film for activists."
Even in Europe there is resistance against smart meters. In some European countries such as Italy and Sweden, these new measuring instruments have existed for a long time - and with them, the struggle against them. In the Netherlands, the introduction was stopped because they violate privacy policies. In Germany there are only pilot projects. Introduction of the new meter coverage is currently not practical, according to the results of a study by Ernst & Young (PDF)commissioned by the Federal Ministry of Economics. It made sense to equip only consumers who need a lot of power with smart meters.
In the USA, the struggle of supporters and opponents of the technology is becoming increasingly more difficult. Whoever fights in Washington DC against the installation is now under pressure. There, the energy company Pepco has a monopoly on the power supply. Few politicians associate themselves with the group. The local politician Acqunetta Anderson is one of the few. In December 2013 she called concerned citizens in her constituency: "A week before Christmas," says Anderson, "Pepco decided to send letters to private clients stating that should customers deny Pepco access to their land and prevent installation of smart meters, their power might be turned off. "Anderson contacted Pepco immediately, the company relented.
Entering the door
Pepco is not the only U.S. provider who is rough when citizens defend themselves. Videos are circulating on the Internet of employees of energy companies forcibly gaining access to houses and land. Sometimes an employee enters the door, other times it is the police doing this and protecting the installers from home owners. This is due to the understanding of many U.S. citizens that they still want to decide for themselves what happens to their land and their property.
Chris Turner understands that the widespread introduction of the devices in the United States can hardly be prevented. He therefore wants to at least have a so-called Opt Out in Washington DC: Citizens should be able to "freely buy" for a fee and keep their analog meter. This is exactly what is possible in some streets near Turner’s house: In the part of Washington that does not belong to the District of Columbia, but the State of Maryland, residents can opt out of a smart meter and for their old device. The choice is officially inscribed in the regulations of the State. The anti-smart meter activist from Maryland has fought for them.
Original article in German: