CMP asks Maine Public Utilities Commission to reject 'smart' meter opt-out option

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AUGUSTA — Central Maine Power Co. wants the Maine Public Utilities Commission to disregard the recommendation of its staff that would allow customers to opt out of the company’s new wireless “smart” electrical meters.

CMP issued a response Friday to last week’s PUC staff recommendation that would provide customers two opt-out options: Keep the old wired meters or have a “smart” meter with the wireless capability disabled. Both options would require customers to pay extra fees to cover CMP’s cost for manual meter readers.

“CMP urges the Commission to reject the opt-out program presented by the Staff. There is simply no basis to conclude that CMP’s Smart Meter Project without a customer opt-out provision is ‘unreasonable, insufficient or unjustly discriminatory,'” the company wrote in its formal response, quoting the language used by the PUC in its announcement of the investigation earlier this year.

CMP also asked the commissioners to allow only the disabled “smart” meter option, if they decide to force the company to offer opt-outs, citing the cost of retaining the old technology.

“There is no justification for providing two such options and the only option offered should be the Staff’s proposed Transmitter-Off Option,” the response said.

The PUC staff’s analysis estimates approximately 9,000 of the more than 600,000 customers set to receive smart meters would choose to opt out, or about 1.5 percent. About 5,000 customers have already asked out of the program.

“We’re shocked, honestly, that CMP would ignore the concerns of 5,000 customers who’ve opted out so far,” lead PUC complainant Elisa Boxer-Cook of Scarborough said. “We also can’t understand why CMP would urge the PUC to reject the recommendation of its own staff, who’ve spent months crunching the numbers, investigating all the evidence, and determining that people should be able to keep their existing meter.”

The PUC ruled previously that it would not investigate claims that the “smart” meters caused health issues, and would instead rely on the investigation into offering opt-outs as an alternative. A bill that would require opt-outs has been tabled in the Legislature until the PUC rules, which is expected in late spring or early summer.

CMP also asked on April 29 that the PUC dismiss a complaint that addressed concerns that the meters may cause fires when installed on homes with older wiring.

After the complaint was filed last year, the commission asked CMP to take steps to address some of the concerns of the complaint, including auditing the work of the meter installation technicians, providing weekly incident reports to the PUC and obtaining a letter of agreement from the meter installation company guaranteeing the technicians do not receive quotas for how many meters they must install. CMP agreed to all the demands.

“I’m perplexed by CMP’s request to have the PUC dismiss my case as not having merit when the PUC has asked, in response to my complaint, for CMP to implement a number of safety-related procedures,” the complainant, Averyl Hill of Scarborough, said. “Those requests were a direct result of the past six months of technical conferences and data requests through the PUC process.”

Emily Parkhurst can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or eparkhurst@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @emilyparkhurst.

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