State regulators lower BGE smart meter “opt-out” fee

Big F-ing Whoop.  The State is ordering customers to pay (the amount is a moot point), for what?  For the privilege of not being in close proximity to a smart meter/ death trap?  How insane is this folks?  The majority of the sheep don’t have to pay to be put in harms way of the smart meter.  Isn’t this ass backwards?…Sandaura

State regulators lower BGE smart meter “opt-out” fee

Natalie Sherman 

Natalie Sherman/  Contact Reporter

November 24, 2015    4:19PM

Baltimore Sun

Maryland regulators on Tuesday ordered Baltimore Gas & Electric Co. to halve the $11 monthly fee charged to customers without smart meters installed in their homes, citing the higher-than-expected number of people opting out.

The reduced $5.50 monthly fee is designed to reflect a larger pool of customers sharing the costs of maintaining the old system and will go into effect in January. Tuesday’s Public Service Commission order does not alter a separate $75 upfront charge.

The decision, as well as independent statements issued by two commissioners — one a dissent that urged the elimination of fees altogether — also made clear that the board remains concerned that the opt-out rate is being inflated by uninformed, low-income customers who have not actively declined the new technology and are facing the extra fees by default.

Commissioners said they intend to review how long BGE should give people to contact the utility to install a smart meter and be credited for previous charges, citing concerns about outreach for the smart meter transition in low-income communities.

About 4 percent of BGE customers have opted out of the smart meters — four times the 1 percent the commission anticipated when it first set the rates.

Of the roughly 51,600 opt-out customers BGE reported in October, the majority live in poor neighborhoods, according to BGE numbers cited in the dissenting opinion issued by commissioner Harold D. Williams. Less than half actively declined the technology, he wrote.

Williams, who has opposed the “opt-out” fees previously, said the charges should be eliminated — or at least reduced further to reflect actual opt-out rates, rather than estimates that predict further decline.

BGE did not request a particular rate.

Commissioner Anne E. Hoskins, who concurred with the majority’s order, wrote separately to say that regulators need to take additional steps to make sure low-income customers are not burdened.

BGE began replacing analog gas and electric meters with wireless smart meters in 2012 and has mostly completed the task. The meters allow the utility to more precisely measure usage and could allow consumers to manage their consumption more efficiently.

But two challenges remain: customers whose meters are inside or not easily accessible and so cannot easily be replaced, and those who decline the new meters because they fear it will harm their health or privacy.

The current rates were established by a Feb. 2014 commission order. Between Feb. 2014 and July 2015, BGE collected about $6.1 million in opt-out fees, reporting costs of of $7.2 million for providing the service.

The commission asked BGE to file quarterly reports about the ongoing revenues and costs associated with opt-out customers.

nsherman@baltsun.com

http://www.baltimoresun.com/business/bs-bz-smart-meter-20151124-story.html

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