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Group pushes back on Fountain Utilities smart meter plan

By Emily Allen, Multimedia Journalist /Target 13 Investigator , emily.allen@krdo.com
Published On: May 30 2013 02:31:00 PM CDT
Updated On: May 30 2013 05:50:23 PM CDT

A group handed out fliers Thursday alerting Fountain residents about smart meters.

FOUNTAIN, Colo. -

A group handed out fliers Thursday alerting Fountain residents about smart meters.

The group calls itself Fountain Valley Colorado Citizens for Smart Meter Awareness. It has handed out 17,000 fliers to 16,000 Fountain households since it started its campaign against the new technology.

Fountain's group is part of a national movement against smart meters. Kenneth Lippincott is one of the group's leaders. He has a pacemaker and said smart meters emit radio frequencies that could alter his pacemaker and compromise his health.

"Right in the instructions it says that [my pacemaker] can be affected by radio frequency," said Lippincott. "It then could mess with my signal.  Well, that's life or death for me."

Curtis Mitchell is the director of Fountain Utilities. He explained the new smart meters emit less radio frequencies than customer's current meters. The meters use radio frequencies to send a signal to communicate with Utilities workers about customer energy use. The current meters give off a signal every three seconds. The new smart meters will give off a signal once a day.

"The radiation that it puts out is 160 times that of a cellphone, according to the University of California Santa Cruz," said Lippincott.

Lippincott's group argued identity thieves could have easy access to personal information. Lipincott said there is already technology available at trade shows that allows thieves to hack into smart meters and tap into personal information.

"Prove that this is safe. Prove that we are not in harm's way," said Lippincott. "All they can supply us is what the industry provides, not independent researchers."

"I'm not saying that there is still not a concern," said Mitchell. "We know that. We've really been proactive with the development of a cybersecurity plan [and] with the development of identity theft procedures. We are really protective of customer information now and that will not change."

Curtis said smart meters offer utilities and customers many benefits. He says it will lower the cost of operating for utilities, and that customers will be able to see their energy use in real-time and adjust their usage accordingly.

He said it will help customers track their bill.  It will also alert customers about a faulty appliance or a leaking toilet that could drive up their utility bill because it will show a sudden increase in engery use.

Curtis said it will also help utilities pinpoint faulty transformers so they can take a proactive approach to fixing problems. He said right now, when there is a power outage, utilities has to relay on customer calls to narrow down which transformer is down. With smart meters, they can now which transformer is down instantly.

Fountain Utilities is wrapping up phase one of its smart meter program. It installed smart meters on several hundred homes. It will roll out phase two of its plan on June 19 and will install smart meters on 15,000 households, schools and businesses.

Customers can "delay installation ," which would mean Utilities would not immediately install the smart meters. Mitchell says about 2 percent of customers have requested that. Fountain Utilities is working on setting up a program so customers can permanently opt out.

Fountain Valley Colorado Citizens for Smart Meter Awareness is offering two showings of the documentary "Take Back Your Power" at the Fountain Public Library. The showings are Saturday, 2:00-4:30 pm, and at the same time on Sunday.

 

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