Pa. bill allowing consumers to opt out of smart meters could mean added costs

    A plan allowing consumers to opt out of smart-metering systems has been proposed in Pennsylvania’s General Assembly.

    A 2008 law mandated that all utilities switch over to electric meters that send out real-time energy usage information to utilities and allow them to set rates for peak and off-peak times.

    Bill sponsor Rep. Mike Reese, R-Westmoreland, says his constituents object to fees imposed by local utilities to pay for the meters.

    Pennsylvania Consumer advocate Sonny Popowsky says lawmakers regularly grant utilities special permission to impose fees to pay for projects that come up between rate negotiations. Besides the smart-meter bill, another recent case involved safety improvements to gas pipelines.

    The opt-out provision would require utilities to operate two separate metering systems, Popowsky said.

    “The problem with that is, one, of cost,” he said. “That is if a customer doesn’t want the new meter, that may actually result in higher prices to the company, rather than lower costs.”

    He says other states have charged additional fees to customers who opt out of having a smart meter in order to make up the additional costs.

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