Will Pepco's installation of smart meters emit radiation that gives some customers cancer. Or are the meters state-of-the-art mechanisms that will move Maryland into the 21st Century? Depends on who you talk to.
Greenbelters will get a chance to hear directly from Pepco on the matter Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the multipurpose room in the . Pepco will also discuss its plans to upgrade the electric system and reduce power outages in Greenbelt.
As for the smart meters, Nick Costen, Greenbelt resident and an aerospace contractor in Prince George’s County has been following the issue and is worried. He thinks the radiation emitted from smart meters may be dangerous.
He's especially concerned about the locations that have placed multiple meters against one wall. He said where he lives on the 59 court of Ridge Road, there are two units containing multiple power meters. One of the units contains around six meters and another has around four. He worried about the consequences to people who live in them.
But for its part, Pepco states on its website that the smart meters use the same frequency ranges as cellular or cordless phones, but at much lower power. In addition it states an individual meter is idle 99 percent of the time.
The problem with the smart meters is not just their radiation levels, it is the chronic continual nature of their transmissions, according to Kate Kheel, Vice President of Maryland Smart Meter Awareness. She referenced a video created by attorney Chris Turner at his house in Takoma that shows him trying to measure the transmissions from the Pepco smart meter.
"If what we see in this video is correct then the PEPCO Smart Meter is broadcasting thousands of times per day at very high levels," according to Turner.
Pepco went out to the site with its own measuring equipment last month, and clocked Turner's meter in at 170 microwatts, according to the Washington City Paper. “Even if the meter was transmitting 100 percent of the time, 24/7, this level is well below the safety limits,” Pepco engineer Mike Foster wrote in a follow-up email, according to the City Paper.
Though the risks of smart meters are being debated, there is little argument over the power the meters will place in consumers’ hands.
“It’s going from a biplane to a rocket ship,” Pepco spokesperson Mary Beth Hutchinson said, explaining that if an outage occurs, Pepco will be able to pinpoint it. In addition, when the full smart grid system is deployed, customers will see their real time usage. For example, she said if a customer turns off two lights, they will automatically know the difference of usage.
Smart meters will enable customers to control their appliances, set their heating and air conditioning, and see their exact power usage in real time, Hancock said. In addition, Pepco can keep much closer tabs on how much burden there is on the grid, according to Hutchinson.
But Costen is still concerned about the repercussions. The mantra should be “Do no harm,” he said, and not “Let’s just do it and see what happens," he said.