May 17, 2011

PUC approves 'smart' meter opt-out options

By Tux Turkel
Staff Writer

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The project reflects directives from the PUC and the last Legislature to promote grid technologies that could reduce operating costs, improve service and increase energy efficiency. More than 200,000 meters have been switched so far.

The changeover spawned numerous complaints, however, including worries about health, safety, cybersecurity and privacy. Many of the issues relate to the radio-frequency network that's being built to support communications between the meters and CMP's offices.

In approving the opt out plan, the PUC sidestepped most of these issues, saying it didn't have the expertise to consider them. By focusing more narrowly on the concept of giving people a choice, it expressed the view that customers who share these concerns have a right to feel safe in their homes.

In explaining her vote, Vafiades said the opt out plan was reasonable and in the public interest.

"For the long term success of smart meter implementation and to maximize its potential to the fullest, the public needs to be actively engaged in monitoring their usage and real-time price of electricity and modifying their behavior accordingly," she said. "To achieve this goal, we need to shift the focus to the benefits of smart meters and allow the small minority to opt out."

The PUC also made decisions on two related cases.

The commissioners voted to dismiss a complaint which requested an investigation into safety issues, including fires associated with smart meters. They decided that CMP had adequately addressed the concerns, and that the commission had already required a opt-out options.

The PUC also voted to dismiss a request for an investigation into the interference of CMP smart meters with consumer electronics and medical devices. It found that CMP is adequately addressing concerns about electrical device interference; it also found that the Federal Communications Council and Federal Drug Administration have expertise on the medical devices issue and had approved smart meters.


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