Maine PUC Says Sound Public Policy Requires Smart Meter Opt Out
On May 19, 2011, after taking into consideration all public correspondence and filings, the Maine Public Utilities Commission issued a Part 1 Order requiring Central Maine Power to implement an opt out program. What is interesting about the order is that it seems to go beyond addressing the RF issues and requires more than what is necessary to comfort those customers with smart meter health concerns. As stated in its press release, CMP will provide residential and small commercial customers with four choices:
- the default smart meter which will become the standard meter in CMP territory;
- the ability to select a smart meter with the transmitter-off;
- the ability to keep the customer’s existing analog meter; or,
- the ability to move the new smart meters elsewhere on their property at the customer’s expense.
This decision seems to be a long way from the Commission’s order in February 2010 where the Commission approved this very same CMP AMI program that is now the subject of an opt out order that not only provides for the transmitter to be off, but even requires CMP to keep in use analog meters. In February 2010, the Commission stated that CMP’s AMI program would, “improve customer service, enhance storm restoration efforts, reduce utility operational costs, save ratepayer and utility costs, and ultimately provide customers with necessary tools to use electricity more efficiently.” It will be interesting to see the extent of the anticipated reduction in utility operational costs as CMP maintains the systems and networks to support both analog and smart meters.
In Maine the Commission can issue an order in two parts. The first providing the decision and the latter providing the background, analyses and reasoning underlying the Commission’s decision. I’m looking forward to reading the Part II Order to see if it addresses my questions after reading the Part I Order:
- What happens when people move? It is possible that customers will relocate within and outside of CMP’s service territory. At some point, radio off customers will move into transmitter on homes or analog metered homes and vice versa. Who pays for the administrative and operational cost of what will eventually become an opt-in and opt-out mosaic with two subparts?
- Can CMP’s customers relocating within Maine but outside of CMP’s service territory expect to have the same opt-out option at their new home?
- Why have an opt-out option when the FCC and FDA have approved the smart meters for use?
- Analog? Really? When the analog meters are ready for replacement will CMP be required to purchase analog meters for the chosen few 10 or 15 years down the road? Admittedly, functional yet used meters should be on sale as other utilities abandon analog just like the FCC did with our television transmission.
The costs to customers for the various options will be:
- For the electro-mechanical meter option: an initial, one-time charge of $40.00 and a recurring monthly charge of $12.00
- For the standard wireless “smart meter” with the NIC operating in receive-only mode: an initial, one-time charge of $20.00 and a recurring monthly charge of $10.50
- For any customer that does not enroll in the opt-out program within the 30 period specified above and later chooses to do so: a $25.00 surcharge. CMP may waive the surcharge if it determines there is a sufficient reason for the customer’s failure to notify CMP within the 30-day period
I suggest realtors in Maine begin to prepare new disclosure forms to alert potential buyers to the home’s level of smartness.