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  1. #1

    Power companies: Smart meter controversy.

    So, I currently am employed at my local utility company. They just started implementing the new smart meter program here in my area back In January. I'm part of the team that deals with resolving customers issues and concerns regarding smart meters.

    Here is the issue:

    The company wants to install smart meters on every property in the next couple of years. (including commercial/industrial). The company was given a grant by the federal government to pay for at least half of the cost of implementing these new meters and the other half is invested by the company itself. The smart meters are designed to send readings/data wirelessly from the meter to a network database, instead of having to send out meter readers every month. It also can remotely disconnect and reconnect service at the meter. There are a number of other benefits/features the smart meter has but, I won't go into all that.

    Anyway, from my knowledge, there has been influx of customers calling in stating they don't want smart meters because of some rumors that were spread through previous media outlets in California or Texas. concerns from health risks by Radio frequency to invasion of privacy to increased electric bills. All of which I can argue against with simple facts for anyone who still believes in these phony accusations about smart meters.

    However, there is one matter that is a reasonable topic to discuss. That is.... the matter of choice.

    See right now, our company doesn't want to give customers a choice, it will save the company about $25 million in operations costs alone annually. That savings will benefit the customers in the long run because the rates will go down. So, based on recent hearings from the public utility commission. The commission has granted customers an "opt-out" choice of the smart meter program but will have costs associated with opting out. The costs will go to recoup the losses the company has to spend on customers who wish to opt-out.

    I'm still on the companies side at this point because I know more about the smart meter program and that I don't see any draw back from having a smart meter. Also the fact, that its normal for people to react to change. People see changes happening and all of the sudden they think its bad, so they find some excuse to prevent the change. Another position i take is that the old meter is company property and should be able to upgrade/switch/exchange meters as they see fit. What do you guys think?
    Last edited by Baratheon; 2012-06-20 at 07:56 PM.

  2. #2
    People are afraid of change and "big brother". Question is, how much will this save the customers in their utility bills? Or is the company just going to keep the savings as more profit That's probably their gripe.

  3. #3
    Quote Originally Posted by Baratheon View Post
    However, there is one matter that is a reasonable topic to discuss. That is.... the matter of choice.

    See right now, our company doesn't want to give customers a choice, it will save the company about $25 million in operations costs alone annually. That savings will benefit the customers in the long run because the rates will go down. So, based on recent hearings from the public utility commission. The commission has granted customers an "opt-out" choice of the smart meter program but will have costs associated with opting out. The costs will go to recoup the losses the company has to spend on customers who wish to opt-out.
    It won't until plentiful competition kicks in with lower prices and you know it.

    However, if the company signs it black on white or white on black (Oh noes he used the colour black and white, RACIST!) and publicly anounce that they signed a contract, approved and signed by high federal judges and send a copy of the contract and of a picture of them signing the contract next to the judge in not-easily photoshopped positions without an ''end users license agreement'', hiding in the background I MIGHT be inclined to trust them, nah I still won't.

    <What would be on the contract? ''We of energy company -Name- hereby agree to lower the cost of our service by a minimal of 75% of the money we're saving by cutting out the ''middle man'' >

    People are afraid of change and "big brother". Question is, how much will this save the customers in their utility bills? Or is the company just going to keep the savings as more profit That's probably their gripe.
    They'll be keeping it as profit ofcourse, maybe lower the price by 5% of the saving, tops (until competition kicks in)
    Last edited by Gnasnimadan; 2012-06-20 at 08:24 PM.
    Your post doesn't deserve a slot in my thread! But it would make the perfect coaster for my drink!

  4. #4
    Herald of the Titans kailtas's Avatar
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    Since the government is involved, the people do have democratic rights.

    Apart from that, any claims to health risks, increased bill and invasion of privacy must be backed up with proof.
    Your greed, your foolishness has brought you to this end.

    - Prince Malchezaar

  5. #5
    I think Gnas nailed the company's mindset on the head.

    The company plans on keeping the same rate so their reduced costs are purely a net profit, and plan on puttin that all in the bank. Not that I see this as a problem; that's how capitalism works.

    However, I also feel that it's not fair to force something like that on customers even if their arguments aren't quite 100% justified. The only reason I say this is because utility companies are natural monopolies, and it's extremely difficult if not impossible to simply up and switch to another utility provider as should be an option if the customer is not pleased with a company's recent changes.

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by ergonomic View Post
    I think Gnas nailed the company's mindset on the head.

    The company plans on keeping the same rate so their reduced costs are purely a net profit, and plan on puttin that all in the bank. Not that I see this as a problem; that's how capitalism works.

    However, I also feel that it's not fair to force something like that on customers even if their arguments aren't quite 100% justified. The only reason I say this is because utility companies are natural monopolies, and it's extremely difficult if not impossible to simply up and switch to another utility provider as should be an option if the customer is not pleased with a company's recent changes.
    The rates are governed by a public utility commission. Just because there is no competition, doesn't mean they aren't regulated. Not many people know that most utility companies don't make profit from the rates, they charge the customer dollar for dollar what they have to pay to serve the utility. The company does make a profit but not from the rates. They make profit from their assets (like the smart meter) and the stock market. At least that's the case with the company i work for.

    I find it funny that people just automatically jump the gun thinking they know how companies make profit. The rates will go down because the public utility company will force them to go down because of their annual savings.

    If the company wasn't regulated. Then, sure i could agree with you that company would do whatever it could to increase profit with no competition.

  7. #7
    Legendary! muto's Avatar
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    Invasion of privacy? No, meters are on the outside of your house, usually on the side.

    Increased electrical bill cost? No, it's a meter, it records data, good grief.

    Health risks? No. Smart meters are within FCC standards for radiation emission; too small of levels to do anything.

  8. #8
    Stood in the Fire Korbany's Avatar
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    I have had a smart meter for a couple of years now, at my own request as I always managed to miss the meter reader man and in the UK most meters are inside houses.

    The annoying thing is that the power company still keep sending meter readers round, which means having to let them into the house to get to the meter. The end result is I still get disturbed, and even if I explain that the meter sends the readings to the company, the meter man still insists he has to read it.

  9. #9
    Here we go - let's get tinfoil hatty for a second...

    Step 1: "Government" provides grant, now they have their foot in the door and the power company is on the hook to be taken over - or "regulated" - whichever terminology is preferred.

    Step 2: Assuming more liberal maniacs and greenie weenies get into gubmint positions, the installed smart meters now have the ability to forcefully regulate power consumption. Better set that thermostat to 78 degrees during the summer and get used to it. Lights out @ 2030. So on and so forth.

    Hopefully step 2 does not happen. For all the naysayers, i would be willing to bet just 5 years ago if someone had suggested the gubmint could put a limit on the size drink you can buy, the laughter and guffaws would be uproarious. Just sayin'.

  10. #10
    Quote Originally Posted by Maleficus View Post
    Hopefully step 2 does not happen. For all the naysayers, i would be willing to bet just 5 years ago if someone had suggested the gubmint could put a limit on the size drink you can buy, the laughter and guffaws would be uproarious. Just sayin'.
    Wait, what?

    Did I miss something again?
    Your post doesn't deserve a slot in my thread! But it would make the perfect coaster for my drink!

  11. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by Maleficus View Post
    Here we go - let's get tinfoil hatty for a second...

    Step 1: "Government" provides grant, now they have their foot in the door and the power company is on the hook to be taken over - or "regulated" - whichever terminology is preferred.

    Step 2: Assuming more liberal maniacs and greenie weenies get into gubmint positions, the installed smart meters now have the ability to forcefully regulate power consumption. Better set that thermostat to 78 degrees during the summer and get used to it. Lights out @ 2030. So on and so forth.

    Hopefully step 2 does not happen. For all the naysayers, i would be willing to bet just 5 years ago if someone had suggested the gubmint could put a limit on the size drink you can buy, the laughter and guffaws would be uproarious. Just sayin'.
    I can't tell if you are being sarcastic or not. Am I the only one?

  12. #12
    ". . . It also can remotely disconnect and reconnect service at the meter. . "

    ---

    The above is what I consider my main reason for resisting the change.

    When the pamphlets came out with all the benefits to make the install in our area, there was the statement made by the power company they could turn off power when demands got too heavy or for other reason as necessary. Which is a control outside of customer choice.

    My neighborhood is one of those handicapped, for whatever reason, whenever the wind blows we lose power. In bad storms we are the first to go down and the last to get restored, so my resistance to this plan is heightened by my past experiences and my impression of living in a third world country's fragile and unreliable power structure.

    The company line is to say they'll only turn off power only when necessary, but it's hard to believe them when everybody lies. (House saying - TV show personality). I do not want my power to be entrusted to those who have shown evidence they are untrustworthy.

    I took pictures last month of the latest upgrade (not) made to the infrastructure on the corner of my neighborhood. They cut down an old pole, but the portion holding all the wires was then strapped dangling from the new one.

    http://i.imgur.com/FE2ec.jpg

    Then lately just received a letter from the power company toting how they had been improving their service. *sigh*

    * * *

  13. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by Troodi View Post
    ". . . It also can remotely disconnect and reconnect service at the meter. . "

    ---

    The above is what I consider my main reason for resisting the change.

    When the pamphlets came out with all the benefits to make the install in our area, there was the statement made by the power company they could turn off power when demands got too heavy or for other reason as necessary. Which is a control outside of customer choice.

    My neighborhood is one of those handicapped, for whatever reason, whenever the wind blows we lose power. In bad storms we are the first to go down and the last to get restored, so my resistance to this plan is heightened by my past experiences and my impression of living in a third world country's fragile and unreliable power structure.

    The company line is to say they'll only turn off power only when necessary, but it's hard to believe them when everybody lies. (House saying - TV show personality). I do not want my power to be entrusted to those who have shown evidence they are untrustworthy.

    I took pictures last month of the latest upgrade (not) made to the infrastructure on the corner of my neighborhood. They cut down an old pole, but the portion holding all the wires was then strapped dangling from the new one.

    http://i.imgur.com/FE2ec.jpg

    Then lately just received a letter from the power company toting how they had been improving their service. *sigh*

    * * *
    Whats the difference if they send a tech out to turn it off manually rather than remotely? I don't understand your argument? IF you don't pay your bill, your power is gonna get shut off one way or another.

  14. #14
    ---------- Post added 2012-06-20 at 09:19 PM ----------

    [/COLOR]
    Quote Originally Posted by Baratheon View Post
    The rates are governed by a public utility commission. Just because there is no competition, doesn't mean they aren't regulated. Not many people know that most utility companies don't make profit from the rates, they charge the customer dollar for dollar what they have to pay to serve the utility. The company does make a profit but not from the rates. They make profit from their assets (like the smart meter) and the stock market. At least that's the case with the company i work for.

    I find it funny that people just automatically jump the gun thinking they know how companies make profit. The rates will go down because the public utility company will force them to go down because of their annual savings.

    If the company wasn't regulated. Then, sure i could agree with you that company would do whatever it could to increase profit with no competition.

    government regulation is awesome and no companies have ever in the history of ever been able to use loop holes in the 3,789 page regulatory law to their advantage.

    my electric bill got raised by X amount last year due to "higher gas prices for the trucks". Gas is cheaper now then before the hike... has my bill gone down? no, no it has not.

    cleaver use of loopholes and cleaver accounting - business 101.
    Last edited by Therdin; 2012-06-20 at 09:20 PM. Reason: screwed up editing

  15. #15
    One might argue, that you do have a choice. Install smart-meter and get electricity from the company. Or refuse and get no electricity. A bit like the pizza company requiring you to give your name and phone number when you order pizza. Don't like it? Don't order pizza from that company.

    Until you realize how the utilities market is set up. Already the fact that government pays 50% the meter's cost ought to tell you something. These electrical companies have often been given monopoly status by the local government. So there is not even a possibility for competition.

    Normally, if a company changes their policies in a way that the customers dislike, it becomes increasingly profitable to offer a service without the bad policy. This option does not exist, because the market is fixed, not free.

  16. #16
    The company has the right to say "We are not supporting the old outdated hardware, we provide a replacement free of charge." even if they can't force everyone to change to the new one immediately they can refuse to install old hardware on new endpoints and refuse to replace faulty old hardware with other old hardware so in the end everyone will have to switch to a new system it is not a matter of preference

  17. #17
    In my area they gave us Smart Meters for both power and water. They didn't even give us a choice and just did it. I'm sure they got some complaints but for the most part there was no controversy.

    If you are going to give them a choice can I suggest:

    1. Show them they will be saving by doing this in writing. Maybe offer a bonus if they switch now.

    2. Try not to come off as sounding like a scam. I usually hang up or shut the door without most getting in a word of edgewise as it's getting really hard to see which offer is a scam or which one is legit.

    3. Make the switch as harmless as possible so people don't have to miss work and don't leave a mess they have to cleanup afterwords.

    I think most people will switch if you do all that and those left over I would wait for a couple of years and then use different tactics to get them to switch. Most likely those are the ones resistance to change. Hell, about 10 years ago people fought a local high school when they wanted to build a new gym. Some people are so stupid.

  18. #18
    Quote Originally Posted by Diurdi View Post
    One might argue, that you do have a choice. Install smart-meter and get electricity from the company. Or refuse and get no electricity. A bit like the pizza company requiring you to give your name and phone number when you order pizza. Don't like it? Don't order pizza from that company.

    Until you realize how the utilities market is set up. Already the fact that government pays 50% the meter's cost ought to tell you something. These electrical companies have often been given monopoly status by the local government. So there is not even a possibility for competition.

    Normally, if a company changes their policies in a way that the customers dislike, it becomes increasingly profitable to offer a service without the bad policy. This option does not exist, because the market is fixed, not free.

    There is also the choice of investing in your own solar panel. However, the majority are unable to afford that right now, so that's not realistic. I do see your point, but I see the relationship between the PUC and the company i work for. It seems pretty fair to me. Like I said, they are regulated by a Public Utility Commission which (as the name states) represents the public. The company does not make any profit from their rates. They can only charge the public for what they pay to serve it to public. Even if you are delinquent on your bill, they still can't make any profit from that. They can only charge you the costs associated from having to turn on and off your power if you get turned off or have a returned payment for NSF, etc...

  19. #19
    Okay, back up people, someone who actually knows something about the electric utilities, how they're regulated, and how rates are decided here!

    It won't until plentiful competition kicks in with lower prices and you know it.
    I'm afraid that's not how it works when it comes to utilities. Remember, utilities are government sanctioned monopolies. Basically, every few years there are large gatherings in which the entire cost structure and everything the utility has planned is analyzed in painstaking detail with large amounts of arguing and bickering back and forth between the company and various consumer advocate groups. At these gatherings basic rates are created. If you doubt this, I could stop being lazy for a moment and find a site that basically links to practically all the information dealing with these things that happens in every state in the country. The money they save on this would indeed end up as a reduction in the rates of those who get electricity from them.

    my electric bill got raised by X amount last year due to "higher gas prices for the trucks". Gas is cheaper now then before the hike... has my bill gone down? no, no it has not.
    Really? Usually gas/oil prices are not included in the base rates and are a part of riders, which basically, are allowed to be adjusted within reason without the need for a gathering of the energy commission due to the fact that those change on a frequent basis and must be allowed to change in a fluid manner. Tell me, do you have sources for "it went up due to gas prices"?

    Better set that thermostat to 78 degrees during the summer
    I suck in the heat, especially since I've gotten rather overweight in recent years, yet still leave my thermostat at only 78 in the summer.

    Now as to criticisms, I'll admit the lying about prices and radiation is silly and should stop, but some people still dislike the idea of a company having an easy way to flip a switch and shut off power specifically to their home from another location. Some people dislike companies having even more easily reached and controlling power over their lives. The degree to which they're right or wrong, I don't really care to get into.
    Last edited by Xenofreak; 2012-06-20 at 09:55 PM.

  20. #20
    Elemental Lord Masark's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Baratheon View Post
    Whats the difference if they send a tech out to turn it off manually rather than remotely?
    Sending a tech out to climb up a pole to turn it off is more problematic than being able to turn it off with a keystroke. Also more difficult for a merry prankster to do.

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