Dissent on smart meter opt-out in Maryland


Baltimore, MD, U.S.A. — (METERING.COM) — January 15, 2013 – With the Maryland Public Service Commission’s vote last week to continue investigating an opt-out option for customers that don’t want a smart meter, two of the Commission’s members, chairman Douglas R. M. Nazarian and Commissioner Kelly Speakes-Backman, have recorded their dissent to the decision.

The Commission order requires that two options are investigated – either to allow those customers the option of retaining their current analog meter, or to require them to have a smart meter operating in a significantly reduced or radio frequency-free mode.

However, Nazarian and Speakes-Backman in their 10-page dissent say the first option should be rejected now, arguing that not to allow customers to opt-out of having an advanced meter installed would preserve a single metering system infrastructure.

“If the Commission were to allow customers to opt out of receiving an advanced meter, it would undermine the fundamental underpinnings of the business cases on which we approved these deployments,” they write. “Even if only a small number of customers were to opt out, the companies will now be required to maintain parallel meter data management systems and retain legacy meter reading staff and infrastructure – costs that AMI deployments were designed to eliminate. In addition, the reduced number of customers with advanced meters reduces the potential overall energy savings, both in terms of peak demand reductions and consumption reductions, that these programs were designed to achieve, and reduces the effectiveness of AMI’s outage detection capabilities.”

Going on to discuss the health and privacy and security risks, Nazarian and Speakes-Backman write that “the meters meet every applicable standard …” However, “as an accommodation to individuals concerned about incremental RF exposure, we would require the companies to develop alternative ways of installing advanced meters that eliminated or reduced to negligible the meters’ RF emissions to the home or business. Although perhaps less than ideal from a technical perspective, those installations would preserve the meter data collection and management efficiencies of the AMI build-outs, while respecting individuals’ health concerns.

“Instead, the opt-out solution sacrifices the system-wide benefits and efficiencies on which the Commission based its approval of the AMI business cases, in order to address individual-level concerns that, in our view, can and should be addressed individually.”

In its order the PSC commissioners say they understand and agree with many of the concerns raised by the dissent, and may ultimately determine that their proposed outcome is the better path to take.

“However, we do not believe the current record adequately establishes that allowing customers to retain an analog meter would so increase costs either to the companies or to individual customers that we should remove this option from consideration at this time.”

In terms of the order the affected electric companies – Baltimore Gas and Electric,Potomac Electric Power Company (Pepco), and Delmarva Power and Light – are now required to submit proposals on the additional costs and cost recovery for the two options by July 1.

In the meantime the Commission’s previous temporary order remains in effect, allowing customers to opt-out of a smart meter temporarily until a final decision is made.