The claim that smart meters were necessary to integrate renewables into the grid went off the rails when Arizona utilities began to alter the compensation formula for solar producers. Arizona saw a decrease in applications for rooftop solar when utilities started charging producers up to $50 per month in some areas for the privilege of selling electricity back to the grid. States, including Massachusetts, are engaged in net metering battles with caps on rooftop solar installation and compensation formulas that reward utilities, enabled by smart meter time of use billing capabilities. Regulators, politicians, and industries in many states have favored large utility-scale solar farms, rather than the efficiency of decentralized rooftop installations with on-site storage.

National Grid, Worcester, the state Legislature, and then-Gov. Deval Patrick’s administration came to the rescue for smart grid green-washing charges by planning a “sustainability” smart meter pilot that would conclude that a well-educated community with leading academic partners, a solar-powered car wash, and a wind turbine would welcome the opportunity to alter electricity consumption behavior in response to data provided by wireless smart meters.

To ensure the pilot’s success, the state DPU also allowed the utility to replace each opt-out with another customer meter installation. This accommodation altered any possibility of research validity because the pool of participants is skewed toward those who support the program’s goals. The fact that National Grid has its own employees or others who will benefit from smart meter deployment in the pilot further erodes credibility. National Grid recently recommended other deployments seek “easy installs,” which includes employees and early adopters of new technology, but Massachusetts ratepayers probably did not need to pay $48 million for this conclusion.

The DPU covertly granted the Worcester pilot a sweetheart deal similar to Illinois, by allowing the utility to wait more than two years until January of 2015 to launch the pilot, with no accounting for cost overruns or recognition of citizen opposition. Meanwhile, the DPU mandated smart meters for statewide deployment.

Despite the mantra that customers “wanted more information about their electricity usage” so that they could make better decisions,” the need for “better decisions” by consumers is the direct result of punitive time-of-use rate structures planned for Massachusetts and elsewhere.

National Grid employed a career tobacco mercenary scientist to mislead the Worcester Zoning Board on the safety of the wireless network. Peter Valberg also testified for the DPU to negate health concerns and justify the mandate the same week he testified for Phillip Morris cigarettes.

Worcester’s Health Department followed suit with its own health report that mischaracterized the BioInitiative Report summary of research showing biological harm. The Worcester report quoted a local engineering professor who received funding for grid research and who has no health expertise. It was partially sourced from Wikipedia. Citizen concerns over property values were also negated by the city assessor’s report.

Had the Worcester pilot not been an exercise in decision-based evidence making, it might have already proven that smart meters are not a reasonable investment, that they are not safe, that they invade privacy, and that they are neither secure nor green.

The decision by the DPU to create a smart meter mandate without waiting for the results of the Worcester pilot, and on the basis of fraudulent health claims partly based on the testimony of a career tobacco scientist, leads to the question: “Is the Green Communities Act responsible stewardship or racketeering?”

Recognition is dawning that the environmental and health consequences of technologies being deployed ostensibly to address the health and environmental consequences of fossil fuels are driven by the market, with no true regard for the environment or health.

Three years ago, Worcester residents asked for a public hearing concerning the smart meter pilot where they could ask questions that National Grid would be required to answer. Four city councilors – Konnie Lukes, Gary Rosen, Michael Gaffney and Moe Bergman – attempted to advocate for constituents. The ruling by unsung hero Worcester Solicitor David Moore prevented National Grid from overriding zoning ordinances for tower installations.

Career tobacco scientists thrive in environments where there is an inadequate system of checks and balances. History will have a difficult time understanding how so many people could have been duped for so long by the masquerading of green. Now it’s time for a both a moratorium and an investigation of the pilot, the DPU as an agency, and the Green Communities Act.

Stretching the truth a little bit becomes habitual lying, which eventually defines the character of a city, commonwealth or country, unless enough individuals help to restore impeccable grace and justice. Worcester is the place, and the time is now.

 

From Worcester Magazine Today

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