Ed Friedman doesn’t mind the tinfoil-hat jokes. Just don’t install a smart meter on his house.

From his home in Bowdoinham, Maine, the helicopter pilot and environmental activist is leading opposition to digital electrical meters being installed by the local utility, Central Maine Power. The new devices, which use wireless radios to transmit data about electricity consumption, are touted as a critical component of a more intelligent electrical grid. With smart meters, consumers could track the price of electricity in real time, and utilities could lay off tens of thousands of meter readers.

Friedman, who carries a radio-frequency analyzer that emits frightening crackles around cell phones and Wi-Fi routers, says smart meters are a dangerous idea. They are an invasion of privacy and might even cause illness, he has alleged in a legal complaint set to be heard by the Maine Supreme Court next month.

Every smart meter should have a physical switch that will turn it into a dumb meter if the homeowner so desires. Problem solved. There’s also a lesson in how utility officials were caught entirely flat-footed by people’s privacy concerns.