The Maryland Public Service Commission on Wednesday announced it has decided on fees for Pepco customers who opt-out of the company’s smart meter installation program.
Residential and small commercial customers who decline to have smart meters installed will have to pay a $75 up-front fee and $14 monthly fee starting in July.
Pepco, just as other electric companies in the state, asked for significantly higher fees. Pepco requested a $100 up-front fee and $58 monthly fee for those who opted out of the smart meter program, arguing that allowing opt outs would mean an expensive separate infrastructure to maintain.
Pepco and the PSC both have said smart meters will allow for more efficiency, cost savings from the elimination of manual meter readings and reliability and resiliency benefits. The digital meters send signals directly to Pepco so the company can improve customer service and eventually see when power outages happen.
But the PSC ruled that the utility companies must give customers the opportunity to opt-out of the program. Pepco said it’s using $68.5 million in federal stimulus grants to help fund its smart meter program in Maryland.
For those customers who previously elected to defer installation of a smart meter, the utilities have been directed to communicate with these customers within 60 days of the order. If no action is taken by these interim opt-out customers, it will be assumed that they wish to remain as opt-out customers and will be subject to the opt-out fees.
Customers who are not scheduled to receive a smart meter until after July 1, 2014, may opt out immediately or after receiving notice from their utility of the installation schedule. These customers will not be charged opt-out fees until the first full billing cycle after the meters have been installed in their community.
The PSC, which some local residents have accused of caving to Pepco by awarding it a controversial “tracker payment” in a recent rate case, said its decision in the opt-out fee case is consistent with decisions made by state public utility commissions in California, Florida and Illinois.
Commissioner Harold Williams issued a dissenting opinion in the order. New Commissioner Anne Hoskins, who was appointed just last year, did not participate in the decision.
The Commission’s decision is posted online at www.psc.state.md.us as Order No. 86200 and also appears in dockets for Case Numbers 9207, 9208 and 9294.
Photo via Pepco