First Person: Will Smart Meters Raise or Lower My Utility Bill?

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COMMENTARY | A recent MSNBC story on smart utility meters has peaked my curiosity about whether these devices will be utilized in my home state of Louisiana and if the devices will lower or perhaps raise my electric bill. The findings of state and utility officials are conflicting, as well as the feedback from individuals whose states now use "smart meter" technology.

The concept of smart meter technology uses a wireless digital device which would end the need for the neighborhood "meter reader" that comes by the check your energy use each month. State and utility regulators are pushing for their use throughout the nation but are meeting with some resistance from users who feel they are health threats because of the radio-frequency microwave radiation emitted from the devices. Privacy concerns have also been voiced that the information collected from these meters would be sold to companies who pay for consumer information. I am not so sure I want one of these either. What if it ends up causing me to get cancer or what if I start getting crank phone calls from some marketing firm?

Advocates claim that smart meter readers have built-in technology that allow users to know when peak energy use times are. It is more expensive to run appliances such as air conditioners and washing machines during peak energy times. With this knowledge, utility customers could time their energy use with the lowest energy use times. Okay, this sounds pretty good. I'm all for saving money.

However, many utility customers who have the devices installed in their homes say that their energy bill has not gone down but has increased! Also, there is an installation cost that runs anywhere from $250 to $500. Hundreds of electric customers in California have filed suit against Pacific Gas and Electric claiming their bills doubled or even quadrupled after the device was installed in their homes.

Okay, so now smart meters are bad again.

I am confused. I don't know whether smart meters will cause my electric bill to go up or down, cause me cancer, or invade my privacy. Maybe it is a combination of all three. If my state does install these "smart meters" I will have to say I will miss seeing old Joe who has been coming by to read my meter for the last several years. Do the electric companies intend to find other jobs for these meter readers? I certainly hope so!

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