Public utility pitches smart meters in Wyckoff
Wyckoff — In the face of public dissent, it appears unlikely the Township Committee will support the installation of smart meters for half of the town, making it more difficult for one of two electric utilities to receive approval for a rate hike.
Orange & Rockland Electric, one of the township’s two electricity providers, asked for a letter of support from the committee on Sept. 1 to install new meters, a move that would trigger a rate increase.
All rate increases must be approved by the Board of Public Utilities, but Keith Scerbo, a representative of Orange & Rockland Electric, appeared before the committee preemptively to ask for support to install Time-Of-Use meters. A public hearing on the program was held Sept. 9 in Mahwah.
Mayor Kevin Rooney said Orange & Rockland is seeking the community’s support to increase its chances of being granted a rate hike by the BPU.
Orange & Rockland serves about half of the township, while PSE&G serves the other half.
Distributed among 58,000 customers, Scerbo said, the increase would be $4.84 per month, $2.82 of which would pay for the meter installations. The meter cost would continue for five years. Customers would be allowed to opt out of the new meter, but would be charged $15 per month to do so.
Committeeman John Carolan asked why the increase if the cost of fuel is decreasing.
Scerbo explained there are two components to the bill, the commodity and the delivery.
“We buy the electricity on the open market and then deliver it to the customer,” he said. “The meters are part of that delivery cost.”
Rooney said some people would be concerned about the “big brother” impact.
“Technically, the company could control electricity usage through the meter,” he said.
“Our intent is to provide better service with the meters,” Scerbo said. “The meters provide intelligence so we will be better able to pinpoint customer outages.”
The new rates would take effect after the meters were installed.
The time-of-use electric rates are based on individual usage. Higher rates would be charged during peak usage hours, from noon until 7 p.m. during June through September. Off-peak usage costs 9.404 cents per kilowatt hour, and during peak hours, the cost is 26.282 cents per kilowatt hour. The pricing is meant to discourage peak hour usage.
The public was not so enthusiastic about the new meters or the possible rate increase.
“I’m shocked and disappointed to think that you would just install smart meters without letting people give their opinion,” resident Susan Winton said. “How are they going to use this data they will collect? What about the problem the meters cause with electromagnetic radiation?”
Timothy Buchman said it sounded like a big rate increase but worried about how much control the government would have over energy usage.
“And look at what the NSA has done with our phones,” he said.
Jim Savage said the new rate structure hurts seniors the most because they are home during the day using electricity when rates are highest.
Using demographic statistics from the U.S. Census, Savage said about 20 percent of residents in the town are senior citizens. He cited an article, “Power Struggles,” in the October issue of Consumer Reports which gives the facts on time-of-use metering and the American Association of Retired Persons’ statement that seniors, retired and home all day, bear the brunt of the cost increase.
Savage called the $15 per month opt-out fee “outrageous.”