Smart meter foes can defer installation for now

Utility customers who oppose smart meters can defer installation of the new digital, wireless devices until state energy regulators make a final decision on whether ratepayers can opt out of the utility program, the Maryland Public Service Commission said Thursday.

The interim decision comes two days after the Public Service Commission heard from dozens of customers who oppose smart meters because of concerns over safety, privacy and security.

The state's three largest utilities — Baltimore Gas and Electric, Pepco and Delmarva — are in varying stages of replacing older meters with smart meters, which are intended to provide real-time data and help ratepayers monitor and control energy consumption.

BGE began installing smart meters this month. The rollout is expected to take until the end of 2014.

BGE spokesman Robert Gould said it would be premature to comment on the PSC's interim order while the commission continues to deliberate.

Under the order, customers can defer installation by informing their utility in writing. Customers who have already had a smart meter installed can inform the utility that they do not want the device.

The PSC made clear that it has not reached a decision on whether to allow customers to opt out of the smart meter program permanently; neither has it decided on the terms of any such feature.

The interim order "should not be read to suggest or foreshadow anything" beyond allowing customers to defer installation, the PSC said.

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