As utility companies replace analogue meters with new, digitized smart meters the controversy surrounding the new meters continues to grow. Next year an additional 177,000 smart meters are scheduled to be installed on homes and businesses throughout Oklahoma. Opponents are concerned with three issues: cost, health, and privacy.
Arizona, California, Maine, Michigan, Nevada and Vermont have had disputes with utilities over their “opt out” provision on the installation of smart meters. “Opt out” is an option for the utility customer should they chose not to have a smart meter installed on their property. These “opt out” provisions come at a cost that many utility customers find cost prohibitive.
Public Service Company of Oklahoma (PSO) requested the state Corporation Commission approve a one time charge of $183 for customers who chose to “opt out” of the smart meter and a $28 monthly fee, in addition to the regular electric bill, for sending a meter reader to the customers’ home.
Currently, customers with smart meters pay $3.11 per month in addition to their electric bill. Given the high cost of refusing the new meters many customers are unable to pay for the “opt out.” In the last week of October an administrative law judge with the Corporation Commission approved PSO’s request. The three member commission will have the final say in the matter.
In Claremore, the cost of electricity after smart meters has gone haywire. Claremore nurse Shelly Taylor claims her electric bill has gone up as much as $1,200 a month since the city installed a smart meter for her residence. She claims her bill used to be a little lower than $300 a month and then it jumped to $1,500.
To express her frustration, and the frustration of other Claremore residents, a Facebook page has been started. The Facebook page has over 1,000 “likes.”
Claremore City Manager Jim Thomas claims there is not a problem with the city’s electricity billing and argues the billing now is more accurate since the smart meters were installed. Claremore gets its electricity from the Grand River Dam Authority.
In late August Shelly Taylor wrote a check to the Claremore city electric utility for her monthly bill. She did not have enough funds in the bank to cover the amount and the city returned her check on September 3 and turned off her electricity. The next day, Sept. 4, Taylor sent in a new check with the funds to cover her electric bill. The City of Claremore turned her original bad check over to the District Attorney’s office for prosecution. The DA’s office filed charges against Taylor on October 28 and issued an arrest warrant for Taylor. Taylor’s attorney Patrick Abitbol requests the DA’s office to dismiss the charges as his client made good on the check the next day it was returned.
It should be noted that Shelly Taylor is the most vocal critic of Claremore’s electric bills since the new smart meters were installed.
PSO started replacing the old analogue meters last year. In October, the conservative group Tulsa 9/12 Project requested Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt order a halt to further installations of smart meters until research can be conducted into the privacy and health issues surrounding them.
PSO plans on installing an additional 60,000 smart meters in northeastern Oklahoma in the first quarter (January – March) of 2016. They plan 117,000 in southwestern Oklahoma in the second quarter (April – June) of 2016. Last year, PSO installed 60,000 in southeastern Oklahoma and have already installed smart meters in the Tulsa area.
Opponents believe the potential radiation dangers are great even if one home “opts out” the other homes in a neighborhood with smart meters can send radioactive signals causing potential long-term health problems.
The health concern comes from the smart meters ability to send signals called electromagnetic transmissions, throughout the day, to the utility company giving updated information as to how much power is being used.
In October, FortySix News reported on Rose, Oklahoma resident Randy Love who fought his electric company Northeastern Electric Co-Op (NOEC) over installation of a smart meter.
Love was not given the choice of opting out and when he refused to take the meter, men from NOEC removed the analogue meter leaving him without power. FortySix News contacted three representatives with NOEC for comment, but they declined.
Love refused the smart meter because he claims they give him insomnia. He said he had a previous experience with a smart meter located on his utility pole when he was living near Locust Grove. When Love moved to Rose, Oklahoma he said his insomnia stopped. It should be noted that most utility customers with smart meters have not reported any irregularities in their health after getting the new meters.
Love was not alone in not being offered an “opt out.” There was a recent story in Pryor about a 72 year old man who had a new smart meter installed on his property without his consent.
Critics claim smart meters have no grounding wire meaning they may catch fire from a power surge. In Nevada about 70 smart meters have caught fire.
And then there is the matter of privacy. Critics claim the new meters not only report to the utility how much energy is being used by the consumer, which is something the utilities need to know for billing, but on where the consumer is using that energy and then selling that information to third parties.
It remains to be seen if Oklahoma Attorney General Pruitt is going to grant the Tulsa 9/12 Project their request to halt further installations of smart meters.