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Residents Protesting Smart Grid Pilot in Worcester

Thursday, March 21, 2013


Massachusetts residents are speaking out about National Grid's new Smart Grid pilot in Worcester, citing the program's possible health risks, privacy concerns, and costly implementation.

The grid is designed to promote energy-conscious use of electricity and promote sustainability by allowing “two-way communication” between the meter and in-home electricity use. This would also allow energy companies to closely monitor each home’s energy use. But residents say that while the plan sounds good in theory, it is causing health issues and will be a costly venture to the state and to taxpayers.

Local resident, Clare Donegan, said that links between government and utility companies are keeping officials from acting against this program.

“Essentially, we’re paying to tax ourselves,” she said. “Officials are just following the money. There are really so many reasons they’re bad and there are different reasons that resonate with people.”

Patricia Burke, a resident who has had adverse physical reaction from the Smart Grid, says the program isn’t being implemented for the sustainable reasons touted by energy companies like National Grid.

“In and of itself, it doesn’t create any gains in conservation. It gives companies abilities to buy and sell more electricity,” she said. “It’s not just the health hazards. In theory, it seems like a good idea, but it is uninformed technological innovation. There is too much financial interest involved.”

Smart Grids have been implemented by various companies across the country and have been met with resistance in many states.

High Costs

Donegan said that using estimates from how much a Smart Grid system cost the state of Maine, Massachusetts could be looking at a $1 billion price tag.

“Maine implemented this type of grid statewide, and it cost them $192 million. Massachusetts, according the census we have 4.5 times as many homes as Maine, which means we’re looking at something around $1 billion,” she said. And when you look at how Mass. and Maine spend money, $1 billion is conservative figure.”

Donegan is concerned at the amount of tax dollars and bond money from the state that could be poured into this project which is currently being tested in Worcester, saying that the costs get shifted to the tax payer, doubly.

“They’re getting you both ways,” she said. “Once with the amount it will cost to put it in, and again for the tariffs of usage.”

The Smart Grid system would include an additional charge for electricity being used during peak hours of the day.

Research at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) says that Smart Meters could compromise the power grid, and in the worst case scenario, “bring down the power grid.”

“Recent work by researchers in MIT’s Laboratory for Information and Decision Systems, however, shows that this policy could backfire. If too many people set appliances to turn on, or devices to recharge, when the price of electricity crosses the same threshold, it could cause a huge spike in demand; in the worst case, that could bring down the power grid.”

Privacy Issues

Donegan said that the main issue that has her concerned is the information recorded by Smart Meters, and that many residents would not want to voluntarily offer this up.

“The thing that got me irked is the big brother aspect,” she said. “These meters tell minute to minute what electricity you’re using – like someone literally peering through your window. When you get up, make coffee, whether you do two laundry two times a week, and they know when you’re away.”

Donegan said that overall, she worries what would happen to that data. “It’s worth billions,” she said.

According to the Congressional Research Service, "Unforeseen consequences under federal law may result from the installation of smart meters and the communications technologies that accompany them."

Worcester’s Pilot Program

According to National Grid, the current two-year pilot to implement and study smart grid applications in Worcester is the largest and most comprehensive in New England involving 15,000 customers.

The project covers 30 square miles in the Webster Square and Tatnuk Square, Airport Hill, and Northwest area of Worcester covering approximately 540 streets.

Overall costs for the Worcester pilot amounted to $57 million and was approved by the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities in August 2012.

Upon approval, National Grid Massachusetts President Marcy Reed said that the company was excited about the project’s goals to cut energy use.

City Manager Michael O'Brien agreed, saying, “Worcester is very pleased the Massachusetts DPU has approved National Grid’s smart grid pilot program. The pilot’s goal of helping residents and businesses better understand and control their electricity usage, and providing National Grid additional tools to make the electrical system more reliable are priority concerns for the city as well.”

Approximately 15,000 smart meters were installed involving 45,000 residents.

One major benefit to the program, according to National Grid, includes the ability to charge electric cars during non-peak hours, but Donegan says that since Toyota has decreased manufacture due to low demand, this won’t be a reality.

Health Concerns

One Bay State group that has formed against Smart Grid implementation, Halt MA Smart Meters, is primarily concerned with problems a subset of people have when exposed to microwave radiation.

Those with Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity, like resident Patricia Burke, say that because of the constant electrical impulses sent out by the Smart Grid, she is hindered in her daily life.

“Three percent of the population experience adverse health effects due to electromagnetic radiation, and it is projected that up to 35 percent may have it, but many people are attributing their symptoms to other issues,” Burke said. “In just about every county people are starting to be diagnosed. Sweden was the first to officially recognize it.”

Donegan says that with the most recent installation, residents may be leaving the area.

“This is a whole subset of people who decide where they’re going to live based on cell towers. They use meters that can measure the amount of microwaves pulsing through a home,” she said. “Once they’re installed, they’ll have nowhere in Massachusetts. People have left the state where they are deploying these. They’re making them sick.”

Burke said that her symptoms range from head pressure to digestive issues and began after Smart Grids were installed in her neighborhood in California. She moved back to the Commonwealth to be with family, but says that the Smart Grid pilot in the area has made her symptoms increasingly worse.

“Immediately after they installed the Smart Meter on my house, I had a very adverse reaction. One of the ways lab testing confirms Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity, is inflammation,” she said. “It feels as though my body is out of sync – a sense that my body is no longer working in a coordinated way.”

Despite reports of health risks, the Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative says, “In-depth review of the scientific literature by the World Health Organization (WHO) revealed that the small amount of radio frequency (RF) energy produced by smart meters is not harmful to human health.”


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Chris King

In scientifically-designed surveys, 9 of 10 customers say they value the outage management and energy savings benefits of smart meters. On the health front, please note there are over 200 million smart meters in operation globally, including 50 million in the U.S., without a
single verified instance of negative health effects. You would have to stand in front of a smart meter for 19 years to get the same radiation as you get from a 5 minute cell phone call. There's more from the non-profit Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative at www.smartgridcc.org. (I'm on the Board)

Jeff Raymond 670

While I'm not a fan of smart grids at all, and I'm hoping this pilot ends at the pilot stage, it should be noted that this concept that things like cell phone towers and such cause health risks are completely unfounded scientifically:



Clare Donegan

I am Clare from the above article.

This March 2011 letter from the Sierra Club to the California Public Utilities Commission cites over 2,000 lodged health complaints since wireless 'smart' meter deployment. I spoke with the author, Ms. Evans and asked her if she might be able to get an updated number as the 2k is two years old. I have not heard back yet but if postings on the internet in the last two years are any indication I suspect that number will increase dramatically if, of course the number can be found; why is it a secret number? Why indeed.


2) The 'science' that backs up the purported safety of RF/EMR/EMF exposure, as I understand it 'averages' out the intense microsecond pulses over a 24 hour period. This is like comparing a strobe light to a 4 watt nightlight bulb. Sure, the total light emitted is comparable in lumens but that is of little comfort when you cannot see your hand in front of your face. My understanding is that it is the pulses that are the big problem not the overall exposure level i.e. the way your body defends itself in a loud environment - you don’t even realize that you’ve tuned out constant hums. Compare this to the blast of an air horn every so often; you body cannot defend itself because of the intermittency – and it hurts!

3) "Completely unfounded scientifically" is an outright mis-statement. There are conflicting studies but is it possible you have only looked at the industry-funded ones? I invite you to check out


There are many more studies; I would be happy to provide you with those links, as well.

If wireless ‘smart’ meters are deployed in Massachusetts and one or a bank of them is affixed to your bedroom or family room wall please consider moving your bed or couch.

Thank you.

Anne Romano

I am posting for Patricia, who due to her EHS injuries is unable to access the internet via computer:

Dear Jeff,
Thank you taking the time to share your perceptions.

You shared a link from India Economic Times concerning safety issues, but you may not be aware that the radiation limit for RF in India was 10 milliwatts per centimeter squared, while the limit in the United States is 580.

However, due to mounting evidence of health damages and protests by citizens due to exorbitant rates of cancer deaths, India lowered its limit to 1/10 of the previous level in 2012. India, like many other countries, is already taking steps to reduce the exposure of its population to EMF.

Here are a few quotes the same newspaper this week in India:

"NEW DELHI: . The Department of Telecom (DoT) has initiated strict monitoring and enforcement of norms and in cases where excess radiation was discovered, corrective action has been taken immediately, Minister of State for Communications and IT Milind Deora said in a written reply to the Rajya Sabha.

The government issued revised Electromagnetic Field (EMF) radiation norms to reduce emission levels fromBase Transmitting Stations (BTSs) with effect from September 1, 2012, Deora said. According to Indian Council of Medical Research's (ICMR) Bio-initiative 2012 report, which summarises about 1,800 new studies under 24 technical chapters, exposure to radiation from mobile towers and phones can cause health hazards.

The report states exposure to radiation has been found to lead to DNA damage, carcinogenicity and impacted development of sperms and foetuses along with other harmful effects. To examine harmful effects of cellphone towers on people living in their vicinity, DoT formed a committee on October 1, 2012."

One of the best unbiased independent sources of international information about EHS is the WEEPInitiative.org newsletter, based in Canada, which shared this news item today.
A short summary of verified, peer reviews studies is available here:
A longer study, mentioned in the Indian article, is available here:

While many countries are initiating course corrections, careful wording is utilized to limit liability, so its important to know what you are reading. Many readers make the same mistake. There is a great deal of mis-information, especially generated by industry.

Please do continue to question the wisdom of the Smart Grid installation. If you care to, read what the research says about RF in the 900 MHZ range, and the 2.4 GHZ range, which are used in the two antennas in the Smart Meters. If you are the unlucky home with a 3rd transmitter collecting data for the neighborhood, you would need to research the data for those exposure levels. To learn more about the protests, fires, health issues, lack of security, and privacy issues, the EMFSafety Network in CA has an excellent website.

Thank you, Patricia


Julie Riccardi

The website haltmasmartmeters.org has a wealth of information from non industry experts. Check out the utube video section, so many facts.

Anne Romano

Posted for Patricia
I am posting for Patricia, who due to her EHS injuries is unable to access the internet via computer:

Regarding the comparison of cellphones and Smart meters:

This statement is not accurate, although many people are misled by this data.

Here is a link to the analysis that gives the true data comparing cell phone and smart meter radiation by Nuclear Engineer Daniel Hirsch, with graphics corrected.

The analysis concludes: "The SmartMeter thus would produce 160 times more cumulative whole body exposure than the cell phone assuming this estimate for whole body exposure."


"The draft report by the California Council on Science and Technology (CCST) does not appear to answer the questions asked of it by the requesting elected officials. Furthermore, rather than being an independent, science-based study, the CCST largely cuts and pastes estimates from a brochure by the Electric Power Research Institute, an industry group, issued some weeks earlier. The EPRI estimates appear incorrect in a number of regards. When two of the most central errors are corrected – the failure to take into account duty cycles of cell phones and microwave ovens and the failure to utilize the same units (they should compare everything in terms of average whole body exposure) the cumulative whole body exposure from a Smart Meter at 3 feet appears to be approximately two orders of magnitude higher than that of a cell phone, rather than two orders of magnitude lower."

Thomas Anderson

keep fighting the good fight. Someone has to stand up to these thugs. If someone installed a meter on my house that told strangers what I am doing and when I am doing it I would take a hammer to it. But going through the proper channels seems to make more sense. I hope this story gets picked up by the mainstream news media, though I am sure someone will have to die before that happens.

Haley Anderson

The energy companies should be paying for the meters if they want to upgrade their measuring capabilities in order to make more money by charging more during peak hours. If that's what they want to do, that's up to them; it's my choice to be their customer or not to be based on how they do business. It makes no sense that tax dollars are paying for the meters, these meters are not going to solve or even help the energy crisis, this is America, people will just pay more.

Steve Stanton

It seems pretty clear that the agenda here is a financial one for the energy companies. It's pretty obvious that it is in the best interest for everybody else to stop this deployment before it starts.

Carol Stanton

I agree that tax dollars should not be used for these meters.

Rusty Spin

Have any politicians weighed in on this issue? Since they are financially motivated to install the meters at no cost to them, and since they will benefit from the higher rates and lower costs, have the politicians agreed they are in the interest of the general public/taxpayers?

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