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Pepco Required to Provide Smart Meter 'Opt-Out' Plan

Just what the opt-out option will be is still undecided, according to the Maryland Public Service Commission.

Marylanders less-than-thrilled at the thought of having smart meters in their homes might appreciate news from the Maryland Public Service Commission announced Monday: The commission is requiring Pepco to give customers an alternative to smart meters—devices that send radio signals about a household’s electricity usage to Pepco.

Just what that alternative will be is not yet settled, but the commission has narrowed the list down to two "opt-out" options:

  1. Either allow customers to retain their current analog meters (which are not smart meters and which must be manually read each month), or
  2. Give customers the option of having their smart meters "installed to operate in an 'RF-free' or near RF-free manner," according to Maryland Public Service Commission Order No. 85294, issued Monday.

The commission will be holding proceedings to determine which alternative should go into effect, but in the meantime, Pepco customers who previously told the utility company that they did not want smart meters on their properties (this was allowed via an interim order from the commission in May) "need not take any additional action at this time," the order stated.

Many customers have voiced concern over radiofrequency (RF) radiation emitted by the smart meters, Patch reported last year.

Pepco began installing the smart meters in Maryland in June, and by the end of that month, more than 200 Marylanders had asked Pepco not to install the new meters on their properties, Patch reported.

The alternative is likely to present additional costs to Pepco. Customers selecting whichever opt-out option is ultimately chosen by the commission will need to "bear appropriate costs," the order added.

The costs associated with opting out of the smart meter installation or with receiving an "RF-free" or "near RF-free" smart meter could include (according to the commission's Monday order):

  • Costs to pay staff to manually read analog meters or perform other related services.
  • Costs associated with a dual billing system.
  • Costs associated with creating an "augmented customer education plan."
  • Costs for system modifications.

The commission has asked Pepco to provide a list of the additional costs associated with the opt-out options and a proposal for recovering these additional costs from customers. Cost estimates and a cost recovery proposal are due to the commission by July 1.

Once the opt-out option and its associated costs have been determined, "all ratepayers will have the opportunity to provide their utility with their final decision," the commission added.

Have you requested or will you be requesting a smart meter alternative? If so, why? Do you have health concerns about the smart meters? Tell us in the comments.

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