Markowitz: Smart meters, smart grid and smart consumers

Editor’s note: Deb Markowitz is the secretary of the Agency of Natural Resources.

A postcard arrived in the mail the other day from my power company to let me know that a smart meter was going to be installed soon at my home. I can’t wait! With a smart meter we’ll be able to track our electricity use more accurately (particularly important with a house full of teenagers) and help us save money. But what really excites me and other environmentalists about the smart meter is that it is the technological innovation needed to enable us to integrate more renewable energy into our system and reduce our contributions to global warming.

But what really excites me and other environmentalists about the smart meter is that it is the technological innovation needed to enable us to integrate more renewable energy into our system and reduce our contributions to global warming.

Smart meters will help our utilities create a “smart grid.” The smart grid uses wireless meters and computer technology to allow utilities to see how much and where energy is being consumed. Electric utilities need this information to integrate renewable energy sources into the existing electrical grid structure, since most are intermittent (i.e. solar works best on sunny days, wind energy is produced only when the wind is blowing).

For this reason, smart meters and the smart grid are essential if we are to meet our goal of increasing the percentage of renewable energy to 90 percent by 2050, as called for in the 2011 Comprehensive Energy Plan. Smart meters will also let our utilities adjust their pricing to discourage energy use during the peak periods of the day and reduce it during non-peak so that we will be more efficient in how and when we use the energy we produce.

Vermont is a rural state, so it is not surprising that over half our greenhouse gas emissions — the pollution that contributes to global warming — comes from cars and trucks. A promising solution is transitioning to electric vehicles. Indeed, electric cars (battery only or plug-in hybrid) are available now from several major manufacturers and as production ramps up, technology improves and prices come down they will become a viable option for regular households shopping for their next vehicle.

In order to manage this new demand for energy without resorting to building more power plants, the tools must be in place to ensure that most charging occurs during non-peak periods.That is why those of us who are working on creating an electric vehicle network across the Northeast see smart meters as an important first step.

Let’s think about the future possibilities that come with smart meters: You may have already seen commercials showing the fully web-connected smart home, with appliances and lighting that talk to both the electric grid and your cell phone. This technology is coming and promises to revolutionize the way individual households manage their energy use, providing more convenience and more opportunities to save money as well.

Of course, smart meters and a smart grid won’t save us money and reduce our carbon emissions alone. Indeed, the most important part of the equation is the smart consumer. I’m planning on being one of the smart consumers. How about you?

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22 Comments on "Markowitz: Smart meters, smart grid and smart consumers"


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Scott Garren
4 years 6 months ago
Deb: I can tell you, as a CVPS customer who got his smart meter 6 weeks ago, there is no useful information available from the darn thing at all! The wonderful web portal is not up. There are no dials to read and no instructions on what the inscrutable display on the device means. Finally, on my bill at least, there is no longer any kw usage information at all, though that may be because I am a solar net metering customer. I think CVPS go a little ahead of themselves with the smart meter rollout. You friend, Scott
Scott Garren
4 years 6 months ago
Since William Boardman quotes my comment on I will expand my comment a little. I am on the whole a fan of smart meters. I can see lots of ways that they will someday save me money and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. They are not doing so today however. CVPS could have better served the cause by delaying deployment of the hardware till some software and user education was ready. As to radio emissions, if you are really worried about that then I assume you have given up on cell phones, microwaves and have no WIFI access point in… Read more »
Ray Pealer
4 years 6 months ago

Thanks to Markowitz and other representatives of Vermont ignoring the health issues related to smart meters, the public continues to be left in the dark.

To this day, there have been thousands of complaints of health issues that appeared directly after smart meters were installed.

The most common complaints are: ringing in the ears, headaches, irregular heart beat, and difficulty sleeping.

bob hartwell
4 years 6 months ago

All consumers should take a hard look at smart meters; they pose serious threats to privacy and not a single advocate has shown any concern about health hazards; opting out is free of charge and anyone concerned about the lack of candor by advocates should opt out. This is a system poorly thought through and designed only for the benefit of the utilities

It is most unfortunate that the Administration is so invested in a system that is of no benefit to the consumer and for which there has neen completely inadequate investigation for the public protection.

Bob Hartwell
State Senator

4 years 6 months ago

Those of us, like our family and farm, who have net metering solar power installations, have questions about the new meters. For example, it seems we have to purchase another meter too! Is that so?

And, it isn’t really clear whether we will receive the same net-metering “rebate”once smart metering is in place.

Scott Garren
4 years 6 months ago

I am a CVPS net meter customer. I did not pay for either the net or gross meters that were installed. I appear to be getting the same rebates although the bills only show dollar amounts and not Kw.

Cynthia Browning
4 years 6 months ago
Just in case people are interested, I have confirmed that although utilities anticipate reductions in operations costs from Smart Meters that could tend to lead to a decline in electric rates, they will also include the costs of the investments in the SMs in their infrastructure base and they will be able to increase our rates to cover those costs. I have found that they will NOT be charging us a return on the part of the SM investment that is financed for federal funds — i.e. taxpayers, which would have been pretty outrageous. So whether or not SMs actually… Read more »
Coleman Dunnar
3 years 11 months ago
Op-ed by the Sec of ANR??? Sounds more like a piece written by a 5th grader who has consumed too much of the cool-aid. Representative Browning once again you have hit the nail on the head. The only reason the utilities have any interest in smart meters and wind farms etc is for the money. The only way a utility earns a healthy rate of return is on money invested in capital expenditures. The cost of energy is merely a pass through which the utility does not earn a rate of return. In order to earn a profit the utility… Read more »
4 years 6 months ago
Question: why have 56 counties, cities, towns in CA passed ordinances and moratoriums making wireless “smart” meter installations illegal? As one of the early states to suffer massive deployment, CA citizens know firsthand the harmful effects of smart meters. Exorbitant rate increases, serious neurological health effects, privacy and cyber security compromised to name a few… Unless she’s a shill for utilities, why would Deb Markowitz mindlessly champion this? Many scientists consider RF (microwave) emissions to be a major environmental pollution, the biggest threat facing the 21 century. Wireless smartmeters would greatly increase ambient levels already deemed too high. Deb Markowitz… Read more »
Joanne Heidkamp
4 years 6 months ago
Before painting all utilities as “greedy corporations”, it’s worth making note that utilities with many different kinds of business models have chosen to implement smart grid upgrades. This is true accross the country and right here in Vermont. This includes cooperatively owned utilities, where the customers are the member/owners and decision makers; municipal utilities, where the votes are the decision makers, shareholder owned utilities, and privately held companies. The primary motivation for these upgrades are to improve reliability of the system, allow for greater incorporation of renewables, and give the customer meaningful information that can be used to manage electricity… Read more »
William Boardman
4 years 6 months ago
Quite true, not all corporations are “greedy,” but they ARE all suspect, since turning a profit is part of corporate DNA. More to the point, you miss what seems to be the critical issue in this debate at the moment — that is the potential danger from a wireless meter mesh net, a potential danger to flora and fauna as well as humans, especially the economically more vulnerable. It strikes me as irresponsible and morally insufferable to go blithely forward as if none of this matters just because it hasn’t been conclusively researched. Research to date does indicate a variety… Read more »
Kevin Jones
4 years 6 months ago
I respectfully disagree with Senator Hartwell’s unsubstantiated criticisms of Smart Meters. I am surprised that those of us who have embraced the productivity benefits of digital technologies in our lives (from laptops to smart phones to iPods) ignore the need to bring the efficiency of digital technology to our electric distribution system which is vitally important to our personal lives and our economic competitiveness. There is well documented information on the benefits of smart meters in many areas including: 1) Utility Operations – smart meters and associated automated technology will save money by reducing the need to send a truck… Read more »
Jed Guertin
4 years 6 months ago


There are smart meters and there are smart meters. And a smart person knows the difference.

I’m all for smart metering. And the GMP system isn’t the “smart” metering I want.

Come on Deb, you sound like you’ve been bought by the Gaz Metro/GMP/CVPS lobby.

There’s a whole body of information on the potential problems with GMP ‘s “Smart meters.”

4 years 6 months ago
Meters that consume power can’t save power. For those of us who are accustomed to personally reading our analog meter that has been tested for accuracy by the utility, and have already whittled our power consumption down already, these new smart meters appear to be a giant waste of money. GMP and CVPS still do not know, or will admit they know what pulsed RF radiation is. Here’s a GMP (Elster REX2) meter that is transmitting almost constantly for 5 minutes: Can the environmentalists clearly explain why they want this many random pulses of 915 Mhz ISM RF radiation… Read more »
4 years 6 months ago
As the CEO of Vermont Electric Cooperative, where over 95% of our member (customers) already have smart meters, with our deployment that began in 2005, I can tell you that our members have already experienced significant benefits from this investment. We have cut our outages in 1/2 over the past few years, while doubling our responsiveness to outages during majors storms. We have eliminated over 3000 truck rolls annually, saving money for our members while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. We have cut our systems losses by 15% (a 1.5% reduction in purchase power), a direct improvement on efficiency. We are… Read more »
Alex Geller
4 years 6 months ago
As David Hallquist has pointed out, Vermont Electric Cooperative is quite a bit ahead of the curve on rolling out the smart grid infrastructure, yet, they have “only scratched the surface in what can be done”. Perhaps the most significant contribution that a Vermont smart grid can provide is nothing short of facilitating a transformation to our largest greenhouse gas emission source – transportation. Transportation related emissions accounted for nearly 47% of total Vermont greenhouse gas emissions in 2008. Almost every day now, I see at least one electric vehicle on our roads. What is great about these vehicles, aside… Read more »
4 years 6 months ago
There is a sucker born every minute, according to WC Fields. Especially those who are paid to cater to industry, which it looks like Deborah Markowitz, Secretary of ANR, is. Well, Deborah, I hate to burst your outrageous bubble of ignorance, but smart meters are DANGEROUS. You should resign or be fired, as you obviously aren’t up to protecting the environment or public health in Vermont, if you would say something like that. Hope to heck they don’t place YOUR smart meter on the other side of your headboard of your bed, as they did mine, so the RF radiation… Read more »
4 years 6 months ago
There are safer, smarter ways to upgrade the grid. I highly recommend Blake Levitt and Chellis Glendinning’s article – “Energy Bulletin: The Problem with Smart Grids”. Author and science writer for the NY Times, Blake testified during the VT Senate Finance Committee hearings on smart meters earlier this year. From billions in misspent tax dollars, health and environmental dangers ignored, diminished privacy and increased hacking/cyber threats, wasted energy and huge rate increases, fires, corporate strangleholds on a centralized grid, she examines the myriad downsides of an ill-conceived technology. It’s required reading for all, especially Deb Markowitz! If you disagree with… Read more »
Robert Hardt
3 years 11 months ago
Agenda 21……Energy Sustainability….Rf energy causes Ca2+(Calcium ion) overload and mitochondria damage, resulting in weakened immune systems, cancer, brain diseases and childhood leukemias…..privacy violation and no realized energy savings, just massive corporate profits that integrate new technologies that we will be forced by a social agenda into having and accepting regardless of it’s truly mindless and ultimately deadly implementation. By the way commercial jet contrails cause over 60% of the Co2 greenhouse pollution globally, not to mention but I will, the So2 that they spew out diminishes sunlight, changes weather patterns…causes dramatic cooling/freezing/snow, droughts, floods, hail etc and our global governments… Read more »
Stefanie Costello
3 years 11 months ago

Mr Hardt,

I agree with you wholeheartedly! Every person in this state should be educated on Agenda 21. How about it VT Digger, will you please research and write an article on this plan?

rosemarie jackowski
3 years 11 months ago

Just for the record…one Vermont family has just ‘abandoned’ their beautiful home and are now living in an old school bus. The reason, they say, – proximity to a cell phone tower that has made all in the family ill.

Here is what another Vermonter says.

Robert Hardt
3 years 11 months ago

Please research Agenda 21….and Depopulation…WiFi, RF, EMF, Melatonin depletion…sleep problems..cancer, ADHD. and brain tumors…these are all results of the smart grid technologies and the new age of electronics!!!!!

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