Washington regulators require utilities to offer smart meter opt-outs
- Utilities in Washington are preparing for a rollout of advanced metering infrastructure to accompany grid modernization efforts. But state regulators, in an April 10 policy statement, required power companies to allow opt-out options for customers who do not want the upgraded meter.
- While smart meters provide many advantages to the grid, the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission said many consumers have concerns over safety, privacy, cyber security and customer billing.
- Investor-owned utilities in the state plan to begin rolling out the new meters as soon as August. The state began a modernization campaign in 2016 with $12.6 million in Clean Energy Fund grants.
Washington regulators say smart meters are "a foundational technology" necessary for grid modernization efforts, and they prefer opt-out programs to maximize adoption, but they are also insisting the state's investor-owned utilities allow customers to choose not to participate.
Utilities "will need to offer residential customers the ability to opt out of advanced meter installation to address customer concerns over the implementation of advanced meter technology," the UTC said in a statement Tuesday.
Regulators also indicated companies should allow those opt-out customers to keep their existing meters, "rather than requiring an immediate switch from analog to digital, non-communicative meters." The policy statement only applies to residential customers; regulators say there were no large commercial or industrial customers raising objections during UTC's comment period on customer choice for smart meter installation, and at a March workshop.
There has been vocal opposition to the new meters in Washington including Facebook groups and a "Smart Meter Objectors Group."
Regulators expressed several preferences in their April 10 policy statement: companies should minimize charges to remove any opt-out disincentive; they should also develop billing practices that take into account low-income customer impacts and other customer concerns.
Opposition to smart meters is relatively low in the U.S., but often highly visible. Opposition to the meters in California led regulators to require opt-out provisions in 2012.
- Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission UTC: Utilities must offer customers an opt-out from advanced meter installation
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