PUC to decide if customers can opt out of smart meters

7:55 PM, Jan 26, 2011   |    comments
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HALLOWELL, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Should homeowners be allowed to say "no thanks" to those new smart meters Central Maine Power Company (CMP) is installing? And if so, should they have to pay extra for that privilege? That is the question the Maine Public utilities Commission (PUC) has to decide.

CMP has already started the installation of more than 600,000 of the smart meters throughout its service territory. The $200 million project is being partially funded by a $96 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy.

Central Maine Power says the smart meters will save money by eliminating the cost of meter readers going to every home. CMP says the devices will report a home's hour-by-hour electricity use directly to CMP, and that information will eventually help the consumer better understand and manage their use of electricity.

John Carroll of CMP says there are about twenty million smart meters already in use around the country, and millions more installed in Europe. Many of those meters, however, are "hard wired"-sending their data back over telephone or electrical lines. The CMP project is using wireless meters, which communicated by radio signals, through the Internet to CMP headquarters. And that wireless system has some people worried.

A core of smart meter opponents argues the new system poses a health risk, because of exposure to the RF (radio frequency) radiation. Susanne Foley-Ferguson of Scarborough says smart meters also pose a risk to security and privacy, as someone could hack into the system and access the data. So they want to be allowed to "opt-out" of smart meters, and have filed complaints with the PUC to allow it.

CMP, however, says it is opposed to letting customers opt out, but if it does happen, the company wants those customers to pay extra, to cover what it says will be the added cost of either alternate equipment or continued meter reading.

The company also says it worries that if too many people opt out, the effectiveness of the smart meters maybe reduced.

The Public Utilities Commission has said it will not consider the health concerns, because the Maine Center for Disease Control has already studied the issue, and found no evidence of a problem. The PUC determination will be solely on the question of opting out, and any costs associated with it.




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