Sunday, May 22, 2011

Post # 69 - Maine PUC Allows Consumers to "Opt Out" from Smart Meters

The Maine Public Utilities Commission last week voted to require Central Maine Power to offer an opt-out program for customers who choose not to have a standard smart meter installed as part of CMP’s smart meter program.

Under the Maine PUC decision, Customers in CMP service territory will have two new opt-out options: the availability of the smart meter with its transmitter turned off and the ability to retain the existing (or analog) meter.

The customer who chooses an opt-out option will pay the associated costs of that option: a) smart meter with transmitter off will carry an initial charge of $20.00 and a monthly charge of $10.50; b) existing analog meter option will carry the initial charge of $40.00 and a monthly charge of $12.00. In order to address concerns of low-income customers, those who are eligible for Low Income Heating Assistance (LIHEAP), will be charged only 50% of the cost of their chosen opt-out option. CMP is required to develop and implement a smart meter opt-out communication plan intended to inform customers about the program during the company’s deployment of their smart meter program.

CMP started installing the advanced meters in the fall of 2010 and about a third of the utility's customers now have them, according to a news report from Maine Public Broadcasting Network. But it didn't take long after the installations began for some CMP customers to loudly protest the meter deployment – in a scenario very much like the backlash against Pacific Gas & Electric in California in and led to a similar state commission-mandated opt out program.

CMP had strongly objected to offering any options, saying they would be costly and dilute the effectiveness of the technology for the vast majority of customers who want smart meters. In the end, the company chose not to appeal the decision and deferred to the PUC, saying it was up to regulators to set the policy for smart meters.

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