Included with all the noise around smart meters, I keep hearing Uncle Ben’s warning to Peter Parker (aka Spiderman) in my head. “With great power, comes great responsibility.”
Last week the Florida Public Service Commission tentatively approved a Florida Power & Light (FPL) optional Non-Standard Meter Rider (NSMR) tariff. The Commission’s action will allow FPL to file a revised NSMR charging customers who choose not to have a smart meter a $95 “enrollment fee” and a $13 monthly fee. This is down from FPL’s originally proposed $105 enrollment and $16 monthly fees. Similar fees (higher and lower) have been approved or are pending in several states such as California, Maryland, Texas and Georgia.
Charging consumers to “opt out” is just another strand in the web of issues around the installation and use of smart meters. Other issues include, but are not limited to consumer health and privacy concerns. As more stories of security breaches regarding consumer information hit the news, consumers are progressively more concerned about the data companies are gathering from their lives.
As with most applications of technology, the benefits are easy to see. For smart meters, these benefits include helping electric suppliers better understand and anticipate consumer demand and empowering consumers to better manage their power needs. However, as with all technological advances these “powers” can be used for good or evil. Consumers and industry alike need to be on the lookout for how this new data is and will be used. Weighing the benefits with the risks, consumers should be able to decide for themselves if they’re going to be an “early adopter.” Consumers that wish to take a more conservative approach need to be aware that such an approach may cost them.
There are no easy answers or solutions. Whether they want it or not, it is the responsibility of consumers, suppliers and regulatory agencies to safeguard this new source of information.
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