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Latest Developments in Smart Meter Saga, February 2014

On March 4 and 6, the Maryland Senate and House committees will hold hearings on smart meter bills. The Maryland Public Service Commission will also issue its conclusions about opt out fees on March 4, announcing how much will people have to pay in order to keep their old meter. Some fear that it will be $75 up front and another $15/month. What justifies an up front fee when you simply keep your old meter? There is no equipment cost, no installation cost, only modest recordkeeping. Might this fee be considered punitive? While a small number of people opting out might justify a fee for meter reading at $15/month, historically, most utilities are all to happy to over-estimate and then take readings twice per year. Why would opting out justify so many additional readings? While only Maryland residents will have opportunities to testify, there is much to learn from Maryland's experience. For details, see the website of Maryland Smart Meter Awareness. Dominion Power has installed smart meters in many areas. Virginia does not have its own smart meter opposition organization, though Virginians are voicing their concerns on the Maryland website.

There have been an estimated 30,000 Maryland households who have opted out of having a smart meter and another 175,000 with indoor meters who have refused to have a smart meter installed. Why do people care? Some resent the loss of privacy. Some fear the increased risk of fire and the expected increases in their bills, sometimes doubling for no apparent reason. Most are concerned about long term and short term health effects, including sleep problems, headaches, dizziness, confusion, blurred vision, tinnitus, and heart palpitations. At the moment, there is no extra cost for opting out. Although the only requirement for opting out is to request an analog meter, either staying in place or replacing the smart meter that was installed, some have reported difficulties in getting their wishes met.

Meanwhile, Northeast Utilities, a utility serving parts of Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Connecticut, has issued a 29 page report that concludes that there is no rational basis for replacing existing meters with smart meters. A similar conclusion was reached by a contractor for the German government. DC has not yet seen the light, with 99%+ smart meters already installed and no opt out, a policy supported by a recent finding of the DC Public Service Commission, a finding by the same company that helped to usher in smart meters in Naperville, Illinois.

For more information on smart meters, google "Take Back Your Power" and watch the film with family or friends for $2.99.

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