PUC decision puts smart meter choice in consumer's hands | News

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PUC decision puts smart meter choice in consumer's hands

PORTLAND, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- The Maine Public Utilities Commission has ruled to allow customers of Central Maine Power Company to opt out of having a new digital smart meter installed on their home or business, but the choice will come at a price.

"We were very pleased with the PUC decision, because what they said was regardless of what your concern is, we will respect it," explained Elisa Boxer-Cook, an activist from Scarborough who is concerned about the new devices.  "Whether it is health, privacy, safety, security - you have a right to be concerned.  These meters are controversial and we will let you opt out if you'd like to."

Last fall, CMP began replacing over 620,000 old analog meters with the new digital ones.  The smart meters are designed to help customers program their appliances, better monitor their electricity usage and even save money by reducing consumption or by buying energy at off-peak times at a reduced price.

The project is part of CMP's $192 million smart power upgrade project, of which $96 million was funded by federal stimulus dollars.  So far, over 200,000 of the meters have been replaced, with the company hoping to have the change-over complete by late spring of 2012.

"It's a relief to have this resolved," stated John Carroll, a spokesperson for CMP.  "It was three plus years of development and review, then just as we got started, these issues cropped up with these customers and that was five or six months more of uncertainty - uncertainty for us and for our customers for what their choices would be - so it is helpful to have that decision now so we can move ahead."

Customers of CMP will have basically four choices moving forward: have their old meter replaced at no charge; keep their old meter - but pay an upfront fee and a monthly fee to have the meter read; have a new meter installed - but have the transmission component turned off and pay a monthly fee to have it read; or to have a contractor install the meter on their property but away from their building at their own cost.

CMP says they will be working with customers and towns as they move forward with the new provisions in place.

"We are going to have to communicate this to our customers," explained Carroll.  "Short term, they don't need to contact us, we are going to have to put together a plan and contact every one - every town, every community - explain the options, so that people can make those choices."

Boxer-Cook says the compromise is fair, though she understands why some people are upset at having to pay for an old meter when they never asked for a new one.

"A lot of people have a problem with the concept of paying for something that is already on your house, when they never wanted the alternative to begin with," she said.  "We think this is a great opportunity for people to say, 'I have a choice.  I am going to do my homework and see if a smart meter is right for me."

You can find more information on CMP's Smart Power Upgrade project and smart meters website. 

There are also several groups who have come together against smart meters.  You can find information about their concerns over smart meters by clicking here.


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