In one of the latest examples of consumer-driven push back against smart meters in California (see, for example, here and here), California Assembly member Jared Huffman (D-Marin County) last week introduced a legislation (Bill AB 37) that would enable consumer to decline the smart meter installation.
According to Mr. Huffman’s statement on the proposed legislation, Bill AB 37 directs the California Public Utilities Commission to provide an “opt-out” alternative for customers who do not wish to have a smart meter installed – and to require that utilities make this option available using “wired technology that provides equivalent smart grid reliability and efficiency.”
The opt-out “alternative,” however, is not defined in the bill. Rather, AB 37 directs that by January I, 2012, the CPUC must identify alternative options for customers that decline smart meter installation and “ensure that these options are made available to customers.”
The bill also directs that utilities disclose the timing, magnitude, frequency and duration of radio frequency (RF) emissions. Finally, AB 37 directs that the CPUC temporarily suspend smart meter deployment until this opt-out alternative is in place.
In his statement, Mr. Huffman says his bill “is about giving consumers reasonable choices. Whether or not you believe RF exposures from Smartmeters are harmful, it’s only fair that consumers who are concerned about health effects be given complete technical information and the choice of another technology for devices that are installed at their homes.”
The prospects for this bill are not certain – Assembly Member Huffman represents one of localities where resistance to smart meters has been most vocal, and it is unclear how much overall support AB 37 will have in the
Moreover, by tying the “opt-out” provision to some undefined “equivalent” alternative, this bill demonstrates the potential conflict between consumer “empowerment” and efforts to achieve energy efficiency. As one commentator has noted, “[t]he bill may offer some sense of control for consumers over how their utility information is gathered, but it could also change the effectiveness of an integrated smart grid if chunks of consumers choose not to participate.”
Of course, and this appears true of most smart meter debates in the