A lot has been made on Elizabeth May's anti-wifi twitter comments yesterday (Kate Heartfield of the Ottawa Citizen has a nice summary). What is far more concerning to me is the Green Party announcing a new anti-Smart Meter policy for British Columbia due to concerns about EMF radiation. This leads to a couple of questions:
- What on earth is the Green Party of Canada (GPC) doing commenting on the Green Party of British Columbia's affairs?
- How does the GPC's tech savvy deputy leader feel about the GPC's anti-wifi stance?
The position is a strange one for the GPC to take, as environmental NGOs typically support smart meters. The Environmental Defense Fund for one:
Friday, the Environmental Defense Fund explained why opting out is a bad idea…
- Study after study has shown that the radio frequencies in smart meters pose no risk to human health.
- Smart meters and smart grids reduce air pollution produced by burning fossil fuels to generate electricity.
- Smart meters enable real-time usage and pricing information that can yield cost savings and cleaner air.
- Opting out will cause the loss of key benefits to PG&E.
The concern the GPC has is that the radiation from smart meters could be carcinogenic:
“We need to recognize that microwaves are also harmful and we cannot use this technology in a frivolous manner. With more frequencies being used, with the levels of radiation increasing, and with so little research on the long-term, low-level effects of this technology we are creating a potential time bomb. If smart meters are placed on every home, they will increase our exposure to radio frequency radiation–a potential human carcinogen–and this is both unwise and unsafe,” says Havas.
Note this is different than the position taken by the Environmental Defense Fund: "Study after study has shown that the radio frequencies in smart meters pose no risk to human health." BC Hydro has extensive information on the health impact of the meters:
Residential smart meters are active for a total average of one minute per day, which includes the relay of information that may be required for data transmission and coordination between meters. In fact, the exposure to radio frequency from a smart meter – over its entire 20-year life span – is equal to a single 30 minute cell phone call.
Why is BC Hydro installing smart meter technology in the first place? Their business case (PDF) gives detailed information, and includes (but is not limited) to the following:
Enhance customer service by reporting electricity use more accurately, eliminating estimated bills, simplifying the process of opening and closing an account when moving, and reducing the need for onsite visits by field crews. (emphasis added)
Improve operational efficiency and reduce wasted electricity through voltage optimization.
Less visits by BC Hydro crews means less travel - less fossil fuels burned - less CO2 emissions and air pollution from BC Hydro trucks.
More operational efficiency means that more power can be exported to jurisdictions such as Washington State, which uses coal power to meet peak energy demand. Less coal power means less CO2 emissions and less air pollution.
Oddly, BC is not using smart meters to institute time-of-use rates which would also have positive environmental impacts. Anyone in BC want to inform us why they are not doing this? I'm stumped.
Anyhow, while EMF radiation is probably not a killer, air pollution certainly is. Air pollution in Canada is responsible for an estimated 21 000 deaths per year in Canada. Many of these deaths are from cancer due to airborne carcinogens.
In an effort to be 'precautionary', the Green Party is advocating swapping a potential carcinogen (EMF radiation) for known carcinogens (car exhaust, coal plants emissions). There are only 3 words that can describe such a policy: stupid, stupid and stupid.