Smart Grid 101


We hope you enjoyed the Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative video “Separating the Facts from the Fiction about Smart Meters”. In the process of refuting misinformation and exploring the benefits of smart meters, the video provided a number of facts originating from credible third-party sources. To discover more about any of these facts, click the text below and view the corresponding drop-down information. To learn even more about smart meters, scroll down for links to additional authoritative resources.

Smart Grid Facts

“It would take 375 years of direct contact with a smart meter to equal the same amount of radio frequency exposure from a daily, 15-minute cell phone call over the course of one year.”

While analyzing the health effects of radio frequency from smart meters a Principal for Environmental Health at Gradient, an environmental consulting firm specializing in quantitative assessment of environmental impact and human health risk, named Peter A. Valberg found that all of the common smart grid myths and misinformation were untrue as depicted in his testimony located here.

A basis for Mr. Valberg’s findings was from the California Council on Science and Technology and its report “Health impacts of radio frequency from smart meters.” This report found that, “Wireless smart meters, when installed and properly maintained, result in much smaller levels of radio frequency(RF) exposure than many existing common household electronic devices, particularly cell phones and microwave ovens.”

“Smart meters only know how much power is being used – not specifically how it’s being used – and utilities will continue to keep that data private as they’ve done for decades.”

The privacy of electricity usage data is protected now and that will not change with the use of smart meters. Electric companies, the federal government, and the suppliers of critical electric grid systems and components are working together to strengthen consumer safeguards, develop a best-in-class data security model and enforce its implementation. We encourage you to take the time to get to know your electric provider’s privacy policy and commitment to keeping client data safe. For more information on data privacy, please read SGCC’s Data Privacy fact sheet.

“Smart meters could reduce the cost of power interruptions by more than 75 percent, saving the American economy more than $150 billion a year.”

According to the Electric Power Research Institute, by 2020 the above fact could be true. This research report by Project Manager Clark Gellings, offers a preliminary estimate of benefits of implementing a smart grid.

More benefits of smart meters and a revitalized smart grid can be found in the following fact sheets:

“Smart meters will allow you to make choices that lower bills and shrink your environmental footprint with tools like information displays, facts about use and prices and set and forget home energy management which is good for your wallet and good for the planet.”

Shown here, smart meters give you control over your power bill. A smart grid makes it possible to monitor and adjust your energy use through smart meters and home energy management systems that offer 24/7 rate and usage readings.

What that means for customers is no surprises on your electric bill and even better, you can schedule your most energy-intensive tasks for low-demand periods when you pay less.

Control of your electric usage is in your hands and dollars stay in your wallet, month after month. The extent of available features depends on your utility.

The picture, courtesy of Florida Power & Light Company, is a close up on daily data display of an individual’s online energy dashboard. A very useful tool available to their customers with smart meters.

“Smart Meters can pinpoint and fix problems, often before they happen. So if an outage does occur, power can be restored quickly, keeping businesses up and homes safe during storms and heat waves.”

This video from Con Edison does a good job of showing just what smart meters enabled into a smart grid would mean for our electrical grid. The video simplifies the complexities of smart grid technologies working together.

“Smart Meters do emit radio frequency energy… But so does your…radio. And your cell phone. And your microwave. And your baby monitor. And any coffee shop, library or hotel that has wi-fi.”

For example, Pepco Holdings, Inc., a SGCC member utility, has a Smart Grid provider, Silver Spring Networks who uses 900 megahertz (MHz) and 2.4 gigahertz (GHz) radios in its smart grid hardware devices – the same FCC-approved frequencies that have been used for many years in devices such as baby monitors, cell phones, remote-controlled toys and medical monitors. Silver Spring’s RF emissions are compliant with the levels required by strict federal regulations and permitted by various international recommendations.

SGCC put together a fact sheet on radio frequency and health issues that you can see here.

For more detailed reports on health issues:

  • This report from the California Council on Science and Technology had findings such as, “Wireless smart meters, when installed and properly maintained, result in much smaller levels of radio frequency(RF) exposure than many existing common household electronic devices, particularly cell phones and microwave ovens.”
  • This report from the Electric Power Research Institute provides results from measurements of RF emissions from one specific type of smart meter. These tests were conducted as an initial step in responding to questions from the public concerning RF exposure levels from wireless smart meters.

If you are interested in more technical reports, please take a look at these two additional reports from EPRI:

You can find additional resources on smart meters here:

  • SGCC’s Myths vs. Facts fact sheet: The fourth fact sheet prepared by SGCC displaying the most commonly circulated smart meter myths followed with our responses, each supported by research. The real deal on smart meters.
  • A message from Environmental Defense Fund’s President Fred Krupp: The Environmental Defense Fund’s mission is to preserve the natural systems on which all life depends by taking on the most urgent environmental threats to the climate, oceans, ecosystems and people’s health.
  • A video in the NOVA scienceNOW series presented by PBS: NOVA scienceNOW is a fast-paced and provocative science magazine show that highlights four timely science and technology stories per episode. This episode is about our electric grid and can a “smart grid” help?