For the last couple of years, electric utilities in Maryland have been replacing conventional meters at the homes of residential customers with "smart meters." The new meters send wireless signals to the company, typically once a day.
In Pepco's service territory in Maryland (and in D.C.), only one-tenth of one percent of customers have objected to the new meters.
Further north, in Baltimore Gas and Electric's service territory, about 3.5 percent of customers have said "no" to the new devices.
In Maryland, customers who opt-out of the switch to a smart meter must pay a fee, and must pay monthly charges.
Delegate Glen Glass (R-Harford Co.) fears the new meters, in part, because of a serious residential fire in California.
Glass told us in an interview, "The smart meters, when they take the [old] meter out, and they add a new meter -- the connection is sometimes loose. And it actually can cause a fire. I believe -- we can't prove it -- but we know these things have overheated.”
Two Maryland utilities (which have installed tens of thousands of smart meters) disagree.
"No [fires]," Pepco spokesperson Marcus Beal told us. "We've had zero issues with fires with smart meters in our service territory. So, we have not had that problem."
BGE told us the same thing: zero fires from smart meters. In fact, according to BGE spokesman Michael Butts, the new meters have temperature sensors, which alert the company if the meters overheat. Older, conventional meters did not have that feature.
Maryland's Public Service Commission allows residents to opt-out of smart meters, but the customer must pay a one-time $75 fee, then monthly fees for human meter reading.
Delegate Glass introduced legislation that would abolish the opt-out fees.
The utilities think the fees are fair.
"Customers that decide to opt-out, they should actually pay for the costs associated with the extra infrastructure that's required to basically maintain the two separate [billing] systems,” said Pepco's Beal.
In this session of the legislature, Delegate Glass lost, and the utilities won. Both bills were killed in committee. Maryland customers may still opt out of smart meters, but if they do, they must pay.
WTTG FOX 5 & myfoxdc
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