Business & Finance, Top Story

Smart Meter Rejection a Costly Move

By Michael W. Kahn | ECT Staff Writer Published: December 18th, 2012

AMES, Iowa—Don’t want a smart meter at your house? No problem, you can keep the old meter. But you’ll want to be aware of the potential cost involved when the co-op comes out to read it.

This is what Sioux Valley Energy members see when they go online to look at their usage. (Photo By: Sioux Valley Energy)

This is what Sioux Valley Energy members see when they go online to look at their usage. (Photo By: Sioux Valley Energy)

That’s the approach being used by one electric cooperative, and considered by another, to recoup the cost of manually reading the meter and billing.

“Today, we only have one consumer that refuses to let us change that meter,” said Bill Freeman, general manager of Clarke Electric Cooperative. “In Iowa, you’re allowed to bill for a call if they don’t want to use the automation.”

Clarke’s standard charge for a call-out: $125.

Will the Osceola-based co-op actually charge that for a meter reading?

“We’ll see,” Freeman told the Dec. 12 Midwest Smart Grid Peer-to-Peer Workshop hosted by NRECA’s Cooperative Research Network and the Energy Department.

Sioux Valley Energy is also down to a lone member resisting the new meter. And that person is also facing a hefty tab to read the meter.

“We also are going to be billing this member for the manual meter reading, per board policy,” said Michele Nielson, manager of engineering at the Colman, S.D.-based co-op. “$60 a month.”

Of course, no co-op wants to get to that point, and Sioux Valley, like many others, worked hard to have a smooth rollout of the smart meters. In addition to its annual meeting, Sioux Valley holds district meetings, and used those to hold well-attended “smart meter learning sessions.”

“We actually received quite a few calls from members wanting to know when they could be in the queue, could they be next,” Nielson told the workshop. “We had to explain we were going substation-to-substation.”

They had experts from the staff visit with skeptical members, “refuting the misinformation with the facts,” Nielson said. In some cases, doubters were won over when they saw the many benefits—what Nielson called “the cool factor.”

The experts were also able to “change a meter out immediately if they were able to resolve the situation.”

Freeman agreed that the personal touch is the way to go.

“We found that if you take the time to explain the issues that a consumer has, one-on-one, you can pretty well get through anything,” Freeman said. “You’ve just got to provide the facts to them, because they’re exposed to so much information today, and not all of it’s true.”

“Take the time,” Freeman advised. “It’s worth it.”

Click here for more coverage of the Smart Grid Peer-to-Peer Workshop.

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