This week a woman homeowner was arrested in Naperville, IL, for objecting to the local electric company’s forcible installation of a “Smart Grid” meter on her house. She said she objected because the meter is designed to wirelessly transmit information about what she is doing inside her home to the electric company. This, she said, was a “violation of privacy” and could potentially permit burglars to monitor when she is and is not at home (and they will).
IMHO this is all true. But I would argue that the Smart Grid is also a violation of the Bill of Rights, which gives Americans the freedom from warrantless search and seizure and from government “takings” without just compensation.
First, I need to make sure you understand what the Smart Grid is and why it’s a government program, not a program of private industry (namely the energy companies). The Smart Grid concept was dreamed up after the massive power outages in California and the Northeast in the past decade. The government decided that a computer system ought to be devised to control the distribution of energy throughout the country according to supply and demand. (Of course, this presupposes that energy-company and government computer programmers are smart enough to design and implement a smart system—something in my vast experience as a computer-systems trainer I know they are not.)
Last year the Illinois legislature passed a law that requires all homeowners and businesses to participate in the Smart Grid (with some odd exceptions). Specifically, each township must negotiate a discounted energy price for all its constituents from one of the energy companies that runs exclusively on the Smart Grid, as opposed to Commonwealth Edison, which gives consumers the option.
Sidebar: The irony here is that IL has now created town-specific monopolies to compete against Commonwealth Edison, which historically was Illinois’ monopoly and which had to be broken up decades ago to bring in competition and more choice for consumers.
Why Does the Smart Grid Violate Your Right to be Free From Warrantless Search and Seizure?
The Smart Grid constantly monitors your energy usage. Day and night. The meter transmits this information to “Gestapo Headquarters” where a database is collected on your home or business. The data will be graphed and charted. The graphs and charts will be filed for later inspection by the government.
“Why would the government bother to do that?” you ask. Well, did you take an energy tax credit on your last tax return? The IRS could look at the Smart Grid data on you and use that to require an audit of your taxes and possibly charge you with tax fraud. In other words, the government won’t need a warrant to look at your private files, because the energy company will claim the data belongs to them and they will be happy to turn it over to the government. (BTW: Isn’t this the essence of fascism?)
Why Does the Smart Grid Violate Your Right to be Free From “Takings”?
The Smart Grid takes away from you the use and control of your energy-supply systems—and use and control is the same as ownership. Right now the wiring in your home, your fuse box, your hot-water heater are your private property. You can use and control them. The Smart Grid gives the use and control of your private property over to the people who use and control your energy meters.
The real purpose of the Smart Grid from the government’s perspective is rationing of energy in the future when it becomes increasingly scarce. To prevent the possibility of a power outage even in a single neighborhood, during shortages the government will require your power company to reduce the amount of energy they supply to your home. The reduction percentage will be across the board, not based on any home’s individual needs.
For instance, let’s say you’re caring for an invalid in your home. So your home needs twice as much energy as your neighbor’s just to keep that person alive, let alone keep your refrigerator going or your home cooled in a severe heat wave. Well, the Smart Grid meter on your house will first of all constantly harangue you to reduce your energy usage, especially in the middle of the night—constantly, as in not only during shortages. Then when the first shortage comes along, the meter will arbitrarily reduce your usage for you.
If you run a computer-based business on commercial property or in your home, the Smart Grid will treat you the same way it treats a neighboring dog-grooming business. No more electricity for you. . . . (paraphrasing the Soup Nazi).
So, beware. If you are given an “Opt-Out” of the Smart Grid, do it, even if it will cost you a little more now for your energy. In the future it could make the difference between having a right to buy the energy you need or not.