Maine PUC to require opt out for ‘smart meters’

Posted May 17, 2011, at 1:19 p.m.
Last modified May 17, 2011, at 5:57 p.m.

AUGUSTA, Maine — The Maine Public Utilities Commission voted Tuesday to let Central Maine Power customers opt out of using “smart meters” that are part of a power grid upgrade by either turning off the wireless component of the new meters or keeping their old analog meters.

CMP is in the process of replacing 600,000 traditional electric meters with wireless digital meters, and some vocal critics have raised health concerns.

In their decision, commissioners decided that CMP customers who don’t want to use the smart meters must pay an upfront cost of $20 or $40 and then a monthly charge of $10.50 or $12. Customers also can pay to move the smart meter to another location on the outside of their homes.

Proponents say smart meters will help consumers save electricity by monitoring their real-time consumption. CMP also will see cost savings by eliminating meter readers and monitoring power outages. Eventually, smart meters and smart grid improvements could open the door to new pricing formulas.

Federal stimulus dollars are funding roughly half of the $200 million cost of the smart meter project.

Commissioner Vendean Vafiades said it’s important to address critics’ concerns while letting the process move forward for the majority of customers who see a benefit from the new meters.

“For the long-term success of smart meter implementation and to maximize its potential to the fullest, the public needs to be actively engaged in monitoring their usage and real-time price of electricity and modifying their behavior accordingly. To achieve this goal, we need to shift the focus to the benefits of smart meters and allow the small minority to opt out,” Vafiades said.

The commission rejected separate requests to require studies of the safety of smart meters and their effect on other electrical devices, as well as to address training of smart meter installers.

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