Maryland Smart Meter Awareness welcomes the Public Service Commission's recent decision to reduce BGE's monthly opt-out fee from $11 to $5.50, based on the higher than expected opt-out rate ("State regulators lower BGE smart meter 'opt-out' fee," Nov. 24). However, BGE then immediately announced it was seeking a $15.20 monthly increase, totaling a hefty $180 yearly. That would provide BGE an extra $200 million in revenue annually.
The decrease in the opt-out fee pales next to BGE's impending rate increase for all ratepayers. In fact, many wonder why a program intended to save money ends up costing an additional $15 monthly — in other words, why is BGE charging us to save us money?
Although BGE states customers can save through incentive programs (suffer, sweat, 'n save), such savings are a drop in the bucket compared to the $15 monthly increase.¿Ostensibly, the reason for the substantial rate increase is to recoup the costs of the wireless smart meter program. Since opt-outers don't have wireless smart meters, the rate hike, in their case, should be in lieu of, rather than in addition to, an opt-out fee.
'Tis the season to opt out. Many people wanting to opt out found the fees prohibitive. The lower fee now makes opting out more affordable. Reasons for opting out of a wireless smart meter include health, privacy, cyber-security, hacking, skyrocketing bills and fire risk. Moreover, smart meters are already outdated and not needed for grid management — nor are they necessary, or even desirable, for a decentralized, renewable energy future.
BGE appears wedded to a smart meter paradigm. But smart meters do not need to be wireless — they're just cheaper that way. Wired smart meters could eliminate most of the above-mentioned problems and are equally capable of communications allegedly necessary in power outage detection/restoration. BGE touts the ability of wireless smart meters to remotely turn-on/shut-off service. While Maryland Smart Meter Awareness considers remote shut-off unethical, wired smart meters could, sadly, provide this "service" as well.
Kate Kheel and Ruth Eisenberg
The writers are vice president and treasurer of Maryland Smart Meter Awareness.