A new policy report focused on the electric grid and economy of energy, “Getting Smarter About the Smart Grid,” has been published by the National Institute for Science, Law & Public Policy in Washington, D.C. The report states that billions of dollars in federal subsidies for “smart” utility meters have been misspent on meter technology that will not lead to energy sustainability or contribute to the possibility of a more efficient and responsive electricity grid.

The report is written by Timothy Schoechle, PhD, a consultant in computer engineering and standardization, high-tech entrepreneur and former faculty member of the University of Colorado, College of Engineering and Applied Science.

The report states that Congress, state and local governments, as well as ratepayers, have been misled about the potential energy and cost saving benefits of the new “smart” meters, paid for in large part with taxpayer dollars, as well as ratepayer dollars. It adds that the smart meters are confused with the much broader concept of the smart grid, and that the undue emphasis on meters diverts resources badly needed for key elements of a true smart grid technology.

Schoechle, who has been engaged in development of electric utility meters, home automation systems, gateways, and energy management systems for more than 25 years, and who sits on several international standards setting committees related to the smart grid, calls the smart meter being rolled out across the United States. “a canard—a story or hoax based on specious claims about energy benefits.”

Schoechle says the present policy approach to electricity infrastructure in the U.S. evidences a “fundamental lack of understanding of the problems associated with the future of electricity and energy.”

The report says that the growing grass roots rebellion against smart meters now happening in 18 states, such as CA, VT, AZ, TX, FL, PA, ME, IL, OR and the District of Columbia, is only the “tip of the iceberg”—one that conceals a deeply dysfunctional energy economy needing urgent federal, state and local attention. Ratepayers’ desire to “opt-out” of the new wireless meters on privacy, security, reliability, cost and potential public health grounds may herald, the report says, “an epochal transformation of the political economy of energy”.

Jim Turner, Esq., Chairman of the National Institute for Science, Law and Public Policy and partner in the D.C. law firm Swankin-Turner, says “A key element in a successful transition to a renewable energy economy will be establishing a clear ‘demarcation’ line between monopoly utility space and customer premises space, where the home gateway belongs to the consumer, not the utility.”

Such a demarcation (or ‘demarc’), a concept already embodied in electricity policy in Germany and in the Netherlands, was a critical element in the breakup of the landline telephone monopoly in the U.S. and lead to significant growth in the consumer electronics industry as market forces moved to better meet customer needs. In Germany and the Netherlands, together with feed-in tariffs, where homeowners are compensated for energy produced, this demarcation has opened the way for home-based energy management technologies to flourish and facilitate the growth of renewable technologies, while eliminating the potential for significant privacy invasions, with the homeowner in control of their meter data, according to the NISLPP.