Former CIA chief questions the intelligence of the smart grid

Consumer Reports News: August 12, 2011 03:22 PM

Advocates of the smart grid, which will add digital sensors, wireless communications, and other intelligence technologies to the nation’s century-old electrical grid, say these upgrades will make the grid more secure against human attacks, like those perpetrated by terrorists and hackers. But former CIA Director James Woolsey offered a different view during a recent interview on energyNOW!

“There's no one in charge of security for the grid,” Woolsey told host Thalia Assuras. “They're constructing a smart grid that will make it easier for you or me to call our homes on our cell phones and turn down our air conditioner on a hot afternoon. But that may well mean that a hacker in Shanghai can do the same thing with his cell phone, or worse. The so-called smart grid that's as vulnerable as what we've got is not smart at all. It's a really, really stupid grid.”

Consumer Reports has also expressed concerns about the smart grid, though our issues stem from the fact that it's not clear whether consumers will reap any real savings, or whether utility companies will come out ahead. In an August 2010 position paper, that we co-signed, it was noted that “Stranded costs, unrealized consumer benefits, and the potential for pricing proposals that may be harmful to some customers, as well as the potential for increased disconnections if consumer protections are not maintained or enhanced, are a few of the problems that must be addressed and worked through.”

Has your home been fitted with a smart-grid-enabled smart meter? If so, let us know your experiences, good or bad, in the comment box below.

Daniel DiClerico

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