Smart meters are a good thing, right? I've always thought so. They help homeowners monitor — and most importantly, conserve — energy use in real time; they make energy distribution more efficient, saving homeowners precious moola and reducing our dependence on fossil fuels; they create green jobs; and, most importantly, they’re the first, instrumental step in establishing the foundation for a nationwide smart grid.

Appliance manufacturers are already developing “smart” appliances in anticipation that household smart meters will one day be common and that the smart grid will be further developed. And in the U.K., the government is behind an ambitious plan to replace all conventional electricity meters with smart meters by 2020.

Well, many residents in West Marin County in California aren’t having it — at all. Last week, 30 members from a group called the West Marin Citizens Against Smart Meters blocked the road into the town of Inverness to prevent smart meter-installing subcontractors from doing their job. As you can see in the video below, these folks mean business. Two of the protestors, including the leader of the group, were arrested.

Pardon my French, but why in the hell would the residents of West Marin of all places, be so up in arms about smart meter installation? As noted by Andrew Price over at GOOD, their concerns — or at least the concerns of Katharina Sandizell-Smithone, of the protestors arrested — are threefold: Firstly, it’s an issue of privacy.
Price comments
The privacy concern is that, because the smart meters record near real-time data about home energy use, PG&E might, in theory, be able to tell when residents are home and even what they're doing. That worry just doesn't get me very exercised, but I might feel differently if I had a bunch of grow lights running in a closet.
Ha. Sandizell-Smith also cites “under-the-radar rollout” by PG&E and potential health issues as reasons to oppose smart meters. The health factor is the most legit reason for worry as wireless smart meters produce electromagnetic waves that might lead to a variety of health woes. Cell phones — and pretty much everything else that's "wireless" — also produce electromagnetic waves, but the protestors in this video don’t seem too concerned about using those.

All and all, this story and the anti-smart meter movement as a whole leaves me a bit frustrated to say the least given that I'm 100 percent behind the development of the smart grid. I do agree that residents should be  alerted if and when a smart meter is installed in their home; people deserve to know these things. But from reading around, California's anti-smart meter movement seems a touch extremist and rife with conspiracy theories, Big Brother-y paranoia, strong anti-PG&E sentiment, and tons of mistrust. I'd like to think that would utility companies, not just in California and the U.S., but across the world wouldn't move ahead with smart meter technology if it was dangerous.

Do you think the protestors are completely overacting? Or do you think they have every right to be up in arms over privacy issues and the potential side effects of wireless technology? Have you personally suffered from any kind of illness after a smart meter was installed in your home? 

Via [GOOD], [SF Weekly]

Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

Watch: Californians cause fuss over smart meters
Residents of West Marin County, Calif. aren't too thrilled about the widespread installation of smart meters. So they decide to block a road — and get hauled