SMUD Approves ‘Smart’ Meter Opt Out

By Published On: March 9, 2012

Sacramento Municipal Utility District customers who don’t want wireless electricity meters at their home can opt out of them--at a cost. SMUD’s board of directors March 1 unanimously approved a policy allowing ratepayers to forgo having a so-called “smart meter” at their residence for an upfront fee of $127, plus an ongoing monthly fee of $39.40. “Those figures allow SMUD to fully recover its costs for serving these customers,” board member Howard Posner said. “In other words, those who opt out will pay the full cost of their decision to do so.” Costs associated with the opt-out policy, according to the utility, include technology integration and operational costs associated with manually reading the meters. “The proposed policy is a balanced approach giving customers who feel strongly about smart meters an option,” Posner said, “while working to ensure the remaining customers are not subsidizing those customers opting out of the program.” Out of about 600,000 customers in its service territory, about 2,300 residential customers and 200 commercial customers have declined smart meters, according to Posner. That amounts to about 0.42 percent of all ratepayers. However, only residential customers are eligible to opt out of the digital meters, according to Posner. Business customers aren’t allowed to opt out because all commercial customers are being placed on time-of-use rates, which require smart meters to record and report interval data. Also, customers who are behind on their bill payments would be ineligible to opt out of the “smart” metering program. The utility says it plans to finish installing digital meters across its territory by April, and then begin collecting opt-out fees as soon as June 1. The muni is giving customers through the end of the year to choose to opt out. Under the plan, customers no longer would be able to choose to opt out beginning Jan. 1. SMUD is the latest--but not first--major utility in the state to launch a “smart” meter op-out policy. On Feb. 1, the California Public Utilities Commission approved an interim opt-out program proposed by Pacific Gas & Electric. Under the policy, customers requesting an analog meter must pay an initial $75 setup charge, as well as a $10 monthly charge for meter-reading. For qualifying low-income customers, the setup fee is $10 and the monthly meter reading charge is $5. PG&E says it expects about 150,000 of its 5.1 million electricity customers to opt out. Also, San Diego Gas & Electric has a proposal pending before the CPUC that would allow customers to avoid a smart meter installation for an initial fee of $175-$200, plus a $15 monthly fee to cover meter readings. There also would be a $50 “exit fee” if the customer later decides to leave the opt-out program and have a smart meter installed. Last November, Southern California Edison filed a smart meter opt-out fee proposal with the CPUC that includes an up-front fee of $91, a $30 monthly fee and a $91 “exit fee.” The fees for qualifying low-income customers would be $73, $24 and $73, respectively.

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