If smart meters haven’t been installed in your neighborhood yet, chances are they will be soon. Problem is: some Texans don’t want them.
It’s a growing dilemma for lawmakers and regulators. Complaints from a vocal group of Texans have begun piling up in legislative offices, the Texas Public Utility Commission and even with the press. Over 100 residents have signed a petition. A state representative also has weighed in.
Smart meters are those digital devices used by the state’s transmission and distribution utilities to measure electric consumption. Also known as advanced meters or digital meters, the smart meters are replacing old analog boxes attached to the outside of homes and businesses. Hundreds of thousands of the smart meters have been installed or will be installed in Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston and elsewhere.
The meter rollouts follow a decision by the Texas Legislature in 2005 that allows electric delivery firms to charge customers for the advanced systems. In theory, the meters should allow Texans to more easily monitor their electricity consumption, and allow electric utilities to operate a more efficient power grid. But lawmakers have begun getting an earful, with some Texans complaining the meters undermine health and personal liberty. “I am extremely upset by my obvious lack of choice,” one League City resident wrote in a letter to Public Utility Commission chairwoman Donna Nelson. Others complain the meters could be used for data mining.
The PUC and Chairwoman Nelson have begun to evaluate the concerns, saying they may create a system whereby Texans can opt-out from the meters. You can find documents relating to a PUC proceeding on the issue here. Chairwoman Nelson has said that while she believes the meters provide a number of important benefits, she nonetheless takes very seriously the public’s concerns.
Advanced meters already have a spotty history in Texas. A misstep by the Oncor electric utility in Dallas, for instance, led the company to acquire hundreds of thousands of meters before state standards were in place. Described as “white elephants” by the Dallas Morning News, these meters were eventually yanked out by Oncor and replaced. The utility’s customers got stuck with the bill for both the white elephants and the meters that replaced them.
And in Houston, where residential customers are paying $3 per month for the advanced meters, their installation caused an unwanted increase in meter reading costs for customers with natural gas service. That’s because CenterPoint Energy — which owns both the electric transmission utility and the separate gas utility in Houston — shifted all its electric meter reading costs to the gas utility. Previously, meter reading was a shared expense between the company’s gas and electric divisions.
Like to weigh in on the issue? You can write to the Public Utility Commission at PUC Central Records, P.O. Box 13326, Austin, TX, 78711-3326. Be sure to reference Project #40190 (“PUC Proceeding to Evaluate the Feasibility of Instituting a Smart Meter Opt-Out Program”).
Is a policy analyst consultant for TCAP, a coalition of political subdivisions in Texas that purchase electricity in the deregulated market for their own governmental use. Because energy costs are typically a significant budget item to our members, TCAP is consistently looking for ways to save our members money, through cost-saving contracts, energy efficiency or demand response programs.
In a state with over 11 million retail accounts, “over 100 residents” signing a petition isn’t exactly a popular uprising. And it is kind of amusing to see complaints about a “lack of choice” in one of the few places in the world that electric power consumers have a great deal of choice.
Still, smart meters are part of the still-regulated distribution system, and if the PUC wants utilities to accommodate these consumers then figure out what it will cost to accommodate their interests and set the utility rates appropriately.
Great observation about the “over 100” residents in a state with over 11 million retail accounts. It is interesting to note, however, the level of emotion behind the complaints. It’s fairly clear if you read some of the letters on file at the PUC. State legislative staff also report letters and phone calls. I believe it to be the case elsewhere where opt-out rules have been implemented that the person wishing to opt-out has to pay to have the smart meter removed, plus a monthly charge for manual meter reading. It’s not an inexpensive proposition.
I like the idea of smart meters. It some computer-aided intelligence in the electric-delivery world. This will bring consumer-oriented advances down the road. It also eventually reduces costs because you no longer have to pay people to walk up to the meter.
The problems with the smart meters is that 1) they use RF technology which has already been proven to be open to highjacking by unscrupulous people using modern techical devices, 2) It has also been shown that the majority of users electic bills increase with the smart meters. This is perplexing since the savings to the companies by NOT having to employ meter readers should be huge. Also, there is also a fee you must pay to have the smart meter.
While the choice is available to not have the smart meters, it should be obvious that until the utility companies choose to pass the savings they will accrue onto their customers, most people should opt out of the smart meters.
We were returning from out of state when we found out that two days earlier they had installed a smart meter in our property. We live in the country and wonder if we can request it to be removed. We do not want it.
Mrs. Timothy Robisnon
Currently, there are no rules for having the meter removed. However, the Texas Public Utility Commission is considering creating an opt-out program. You can write in with your concerns to this address: PUC Central Records, P.O. Box 13326, Austin, TX, 78711-3326. Be sure to reference Project #40190 (“PUC Proceeding to Evaluate the Feasibility of Instituting a Smart Meter Opt-Out Program”).
The SmartMeters are promoted deceptively. Most consumers are unaware that these devices allow remote control of the customer’s AC/Heating thermostat, and of Smart appliances in the building. Nor are consumers aware of ordinances being adopted by some cities, that give the local government authority to use the remote control feature to carry out programs to reduce electricity useage by consumers.
Finally, consumers are not made aware of changes being proposed to building codes that would require the use of Smart Appliances in homes and buildings. These Smart Appliances cost substantially more than appliances that do not support this remote control functionality.
Consumers should be made aware of these things, and given control over whether they wish to enable the remote control feature for their home or business, and to also control who they allow to use the feature in their home or business.
I just received a letter in the mail from Oncor to notify me that they will be installing a smart meter. There is no time frame given in the letter; so I don’t know how much time before it’s installed. I live in an apartment, so must assume others have received the same letter… I am very concerned about this and having just now found out about it hope it isn’t too late to protest. It is more harm than good and I don’t want the smart meter; I want a choice.
I was never asked if I wanted a smart meter on my home. My 13 year old daughter hasn’t had a full night’s sleep since it was installed. We are literally being microwaved in our own homes and then billed for it.
If these types of meters are giving people cancer or “microwaving” anyone, then I would like to see some legitimate proof. On that they use radio frequency which if you listen to a radio, use a cell or cordless phone then you should understand how harmless they are. And has anyone ever not been able to pay a bill? Because when you don’t they would come and put boots on your meter, then when you paid they turned it back on. They charged for each trip, with todays economy any money saved is help when you can’t afford things you even need.