While CPS Energy begins construction on a grid to communicate with the smart meters it will install beginning in the fall, a group opposed to the new technology is gaining traction at the state capitol.
CPS Energy spokeswoman Christine Patmon said the utility company will begin installing smart electric meters on homes around San Antonio later in 2014.
"This fall we'll start putting in the meters themselves,” Patmon said. “So we're replacing somewhere along the lines of 750,000 electric meters and then we will be putting modules on the gas meters.”
The new meters report electric use directly to the utility so meter readers will no longer be needed.
With the smart grid, CPS Energy’s Energy Management Center will also be able to better monitor customer outages.
"It's a four-year project so it's going to take us a little time," Patmon said.
She said the new technology will save money and customers will be able to monitor their electric use.
"A lot of people don't like getting a bill and not knowing how much is in it,” Patmon said. “Those days will be over with the Smart Grid. They'll be able to go online and see their energy use hour-by-hour or day-by-day, however they want to see it."
While CPS Energy is doing all that, a group called Texans Against Smart Meters is rallying against the new technology.
Patriot Shar, the group’s founder, and a few supporters had a closed door meeting at the state capitol Thursday to spread the word. Shar said she has personally experienced health problems she attributes to meters in her neighborhood.
"I have headaches,” Shar said. “I never had headaches before. Now I wake up with a headache. I woke up one morning, now this was strange, I woke up at 3 a.m. and I was vibrating. We're being literally, constantly electrocuted and radiated by these meters."
Shar and her group met with a top state official and called the meeting a success.
Shar said beyond the health problems caused by the meters, testing has not been done on the technology. She wants the state to take action.
CPS Energy allows customers to opt out of having a Smart Meter.
"Texans Against Smart Meters is not for an opt-out,” Shar said. “We are for an immediate moratorium and we want an independent study done."
Dr. Geoffrey Clarke, professor of radiology at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio, said smart meters have not proven dangerous.
"I've found no evidence that they pose any significant hazard to the public," Clarke said.
He is a medical physicist and said RF -- or radio frequency -- waves, like those emitted by Smart Meters, are everywhere. He said the RF emitted by the smart meter is low.
"Much lower than your cellphone," Clarke said. “If you're hypersensitive to smart meters -- and you may be, I don't know -- but you're going to be hypersensitive to everything else in the environment as well."
He said chronic health effects could appear over time but extensive research would be required.
“There's widespread phenomenon of people claiming hypersensitivity to radio frequency radiation,” Clarke said. “Probably somewhere around 10 to 20 percent of people claim to have hypersensitivity to radiation. Sometimes they tend to attribute their health conditions to things they don't understand.”
He said any research project on such a topic would have to be extensive, covering a great number of people and situations.
The group SmartGrid Consumer Collaborative said smart grids allow power companies to be environmentally 'green' because wind and solar energy can be part of the power mix.