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January 27, 2021

Volunteer sees the positives in Maui Smart Grid

Maria Drey was contemplating ways to become more energy efficient when the Maui Smart Grid Project came along two years ago. “I thought it was a great idea,” Drey said in explaining why she signed up immediately after being asked.

Drey has one smart meter on her property. She and her husband keep their in-home device handy and visible in the family kitchen to help keep track of their energy consumption on a regular basis.

“The visual is huge,” she said, referring to the in-home device. “There’s just no downside to it,” Drey said. The in-home device is a highly reliable, secure, in-home display that presents real-time energy use, price ad billing data, and utility text messages communicate from a linked smart meter.

Drey said $800 monthly electricity bills are now in the past, in part because of the changes her family made after monitoring the energy usage data received through the project. The Dreys invested in an energy-efficient system for the house swimming pool, and they turn off lights and unplug appliances when not in use. “I really wanted to get a good handle on my family’s energy use and bring down, if possible, our electricity bills. I got that by participating in the Maui Smart Grid Project.”

Did you know?

  • In 2011, Hawaii imported 93% of its energy and, in 2013, the state had the highest electricity prices in the nation.
  • Hawaii is one of eight states with installed geothermal capacity; in 2013, 23% of its renewable net electricity generation came from geothermal energy.
  • Hawaii’s utility-scale electricity generation from solar energy increased nearly six-fold in 2013.
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The expert study evaluates smart meter safety

A newly commissioned study has concluded that the electromagnetic radiation from radio frequency (RF) measured on smart meters at homes in the Maui Smart Grid project does not create a hazard.

Findings by Cascadia PM, an engineering and project management service company, are available at the project Web site: “The results clearly show that the radio frequency is very minimal and does not pose a health risk,” said Project Manager James “Christian” Rawson of the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute (HNEI) at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa. HNEI commissioned Cascadia to conduct the study in February as part of HNEI’s research into health effects from the meters.

Web site developer Istvan Siposs said he heard about concerns about smart meter safety and decided to research the topic prior to signing up for the Maui Smart Grid Project. “I always felt their argument was not grounded in real science. So in short, the fact that it transmits its data through radio waves never concerned us and it still doesn’t,” Siposs said. There are two smart meters on Siposs’ property.

Maui Meadows resident Tom Croly also has two smart meters – one on his house and another on his cottage. “Exactly what I thought prior to getting my smart meter,” Croly said after reading the radio frequency report. “I hold a cell phone next to my brain. I recognize it exposes me to microwaves. I expect the risk of exposure from my smart meter is many times less than that of my cell phone.”

Smart Grid Project Volunteer Susan Gurewitsch said: “Everyone is aware of the huge energy issues looming over us. But the Smart Grid project literally brings the issues of energy consumption and sources home.”

“For me, that has created a whole new level of awareness. I think deliberately about how and when to use energy in a way that I never had before,” she added.

Maui Economic Development Board (MEDB) is partnering with HNEI to engage with the community and the volunteers in the project. MEDB President and CEO Jeanne Skog said: “It’s reassuring to have confirmation that residential smart meters in this project are safe for residents to use,” Skog said. “Safety is of utmost importance and we appreciate our volunteers’ continued support of the Smart Grid Project. They are pioneers in what could be Maui’s smart energy future. Where they go others will follow.”

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