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Smart meters should translate into lower fees for all [Letter]

Energy Saving

The BGE Smart Meter program is good for the company and punishes the opt-out consumer. The only way consumers benefit is if they choose not to bake, do laundry or vacuum on the days BGE chooses for energy savings. Why should BGE dictate my life? ("Cost of not taking a smart meter arrives," Aug. 8).

Some 350,000 customers have electric meters which are not accessible, and 20,000 have opted out. According to BGE's website, it has some 1.2 million customers, of which about 370,000 are customers without smart meters.

This translates into payments of nearly $28 million over three months to BGE, and an additional $44.7 million in annual meter reading fees. At an average cost of $231 per meter, the cost of the 830,000 installed meters would be nearly $192 million, which would be recouped from the opt-out customers in less than 4 years.

The opt-out income not only underwrites the cost of the smart meters, it subsidizes those who use them. BGE reports that smart meter customers can save money by using less energy on certain days when notified by the company either by text, e-mail or regular mail.

This probably requires upgrades to their IT systems. Where does the money come from for these notifications and computer upgrades?

I understand that there is labor involved in reading meters, which BGE has always figured into its fees. However, the company now has about 70 percent fewer meters that need reading. And it can certainly estimate usage for two months and only send out a reader four times a year rather than monthly, reducing their costs even further.

Meter-reading expenses had to be already figured into monthly bills, so this is not only a net savings to the company, it is profit — it can't possibly cost $44 million a year to read 370,000 meters. It would be fair to reduce the meter reading fee to no more than $3.50 per month — 70 percent fewer meters to read should equal a 70 percent reduction in their fee — or to not charge a meter reading fee at all.

And what are the consequences if all customers switched to smart-meters? BGE, a for-profit corporation, would immediately seek rate and distribution increases to offset the loss in income from the opt-out customers.

Nathan Rosenblum, Baltimore

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