Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Court rules smart meters are safe

William Payne
February 3, 2016
The Supreme Court in the US state of Maine has ruled that smart meters are safe, and pose no credible threat to health and safety. The ruling affirms a decision by Maine's Public Utilities Commission that public health was not put at risk by the deployment of smart meters, a decision that had by challenged by critics of smart meters.

The case had been brought by smart meter opponent Ed Friedman and the Maine Coalition to Stop Smart Meters. Friedman argued that the Commission's own investigation before licensing the deployment of smart meters by Central Maine Power (CMP) contradicted its decision to allow their use.

“Contrary to Friedman’s contention, the record is replete with evidence supporting the commission’s 82-page order finding that smart meters do not pose a credible threat to the health and safety of CMP’s customers under reasonable operational scenarios,” the judgement stated.

In its judgement, the Court described smart meter critics as demanding an “impractically high” standard for safety. Ironically, their approach would in practice make utilities far less safe for the public. Presiding judge, Justice Andrew Mead wrote that smart meter critics “would require an impractically high threshold for ensuring safety, and as a result would render nearly all utilities unsafe”.

Smart meter opponents had argued that they cause a range of symptoms including headache, fatigue, ringing in the ears and sleep loss. They also argued that only some people were affected, those who were sensitive to the wireless signals sent out by the meters.

Maine's Public Utilities Commission was also challenged as not having demonstrated that smart meters were safe. Opponents said that the Commission had not shown enough evidence to demonstrate that the meters were conclusively safe, and the Commission's two commissioners had given different reasons for adopting smart meters.

The Supreme Court dismissed these concerns, saying that the decision had been based on a “wealth of evidence,” including more than 100 peer-reviewed scientific studies.

Addressing the issue about the different reasons given by the commissioners, the judgement stated: “When viewed in the context of the order as a whole, Commissioner Littell and Commissioner Vannoy unequivocally concurred in their determination that the CMP smart meters do not pose a credible threat to the health and safety of CMP customers.”

CMP argued that 99 percent of smart meters only transmit a signal for nine seconds or less each day. They contend that other devices, such as wireless routers, cordless phones and baby monitors, transmit far more frequently, if not continuously.

The court case is one of a long series of legal challenges in different court mounted by Ed Friedman over the safety of smart energy meters since 2011. All have failed so far to date.