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Alliant Energy says, once again, smart meters are safe

Smart meters look similar to digital energy meters, but an easy way to distinguish the two, is the smart meter has a red stripe. (CBS2/FOX28)

Wednesday, a group opposing the so-called "smart" energy meters are presenting evidence in front of the Iowa Utilities Board in Des Moines, to argue for the ability to opt out of Alliant's smart meters free of charge. Currently, tens of thousands of Alliant Energy's customers have the newer smart meters to measure energy usage, accounting for about 67 percent of their customers. Over 170,000 other households have smart meters, serviced by companies other than Alliant.

Those presenting in front of the IUB Wednesday cite concerns that the smart meters will be easy to hack into, and also fear that radio frequencies emitted from the meters might be harmful. Alliant says they've spent months trying to dispel these concerns about the meters, especially recently.

"In the last few weeks, we've seen a lot of false narratives out there," said Justin Foss, spokesperson for Alliant. "We've seen a lot of misinformation published. Safety's our biggest thing. We would not install anything that was unsafe for ourselves or our customers."

Kathy Matara from Fairfield says that she experienced poor health related to smart meter usage from ones installed neighboring her vacation home in Hawaii.

"Headache, heart palpitations, pressure on my chest, fatigue--I'm normally a really healthy person," said Matara in a phone interview. "I don't experience these symptoms."

However, Foss says the meters emit RF only seven times a day, for a fraction of a second at a time. The frequency is comparable to a cellphone, which many people spend more than a second on per day. Foss notes that all RF from the meters are well within the FCC guidelines.

Matara and others are also concerned about privacy invasion. Timothy Schoechle, a researcher from Colorado, who is presenting evidence in front of IUB, says his research on this matter suggests that the smart meter data might be able to inform someone what type of appliance a household is using and at what time.

Alliant Energy says that there's no way the meters would be used in this way, saying that they would not design something that could be easily compromised.

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