SMUD Tweaks Smart Meter Program

By Published On: March 22, 2013

After input from ratepayers, the Sacramento Municipal Utility District rethought its “smart” meter opt-out policy, giving residential customers who are unhappy with the meters the option of having an analog meter reinstalled. Under the resolution adopted at the SMUD board’s March 21 business meeting, the muni eliminated a cut-off date of Jan. 1, 2013, for existing customers to request an analog meter. It also revised a previously approved fee structure for those preferring analog meters over digital ones. SMUD instituted the Jan. 1, 2013, cut-off date in October 2012, saying at the time that although the digital meters had generated a flood of public complaints, only a small fraction of customers—less than half of one percent, according to chief executive officer John DiStasio—had actually opted out. The new structure, like the previous one would have customers with analog meters pay a $127 one-time analog meter installation fee, plus an additional $14/month. However, now customers would have the option of paying the flat fee in installments. “The policy change is that the installation fee may be spread over 36 months,” board member Nancy Bui-Thompson explained. The changes were instituted after a Feb. 21 public workshop, during which “smart” meter opponents aired their grievances with the technology, particularly the belief that the wireless devices can cause health problems, such as chronic pain and ringing in the ears. However, despite the vocal complaints about the meters, which have been ongoing since summer 2012, only about 2,300 residential customers and 200 commercial customers, out of 600,000 customers in SMUD’s service territory, initially declined smart meters before the op-out program was implemented, according to the muni. This amounted to about 0.42 percent of all ratepayers. Of that 2,300, only 370 customers ultimately chose the opt-out option, according to DiStasio.

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