Smart meter installation hits Texan resistance

The installation of smart meters is running into fierce resistance in the state of Texas, where homeowners are going to extreme lengths to prevent it from happening, according to a report from Associated Press.

Worried that smart meters could be used to spy on residents or gather information about them, many Texans are reported to have stopped technicians from carrying out their work. While some have built cages around their meters, others are said to have threatened installers with firearms. In the meantime, public protests about the deployment of smart meters are gathering momentum.

Many states in the US are currently replacing old-style electricity meters with smart meters that are supposed to be more energy efficient. By providing real-time information about energy usage, smart meters could help both consumers and utilities realize substantial savings, say their supporters.

Back in 2009, utilities nationwide received $3.5 billion in stimulus funds to help them make the conversion. In Texas, smart meter legislation dates back to 2005, and utilities have already installed 6 million smart meters, representing 87% of the final 2016 target.

But as the deadline approaches, opposition to the project is mounting. Among the more outlandish concerns reported by Associated Press are that smart meters would let police know when residents were awake and what they might be doing in violation of the Fourth Amendment.

Other opponents have cited a January report from the US Department of Energy saying that smart meters could be vulnerable to hacking, while some are concerned the radiofrequency signals that travel between smart meters and utility companies could be damaging to health. Last year, the World Health Organization stoked fears by saying the radiofrequency radiation emitted by smart meters might be a “possible carcinogen”.

Smart meter opponents in other parts of the US have expressed similar concerns. While utilities and authorities have tried to assuage these fears—arguing that smart-meter signals are no more dangerous than transmissions from mobile phones and baby monitors—several states have allowed residents to opt out of smart-meter programs, including California, Vermont, Maine and Nevada.

In Texas, utilities insist that most Texans back the initiative. Even so, utility commission officials are considering whether to allow Texans the same opt-outs offered to residents elsewhere in the country.

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