The Public Utility Commission has voted to move forward with developing a proposal to allow Texas electric customers to opt out of the smart meters power companies already have installed in millions of locations.
Smart meters look similar to conventional analog meters but can identify energy consumption in more detail and transmit the information between a home or business and the electricity provider.
In a 3-0 vote Thursday, the commission decided to begin a rule-making process on an opt-out proposal, spokesman Terry Hadley said.
That means that over the next several months, commission staff will develop a plan that would allow customers to decline the high-tech meters. At some point, the agency will publish a proposal, triggering a public comment period. After that, the proposal could move toward adoption.
Hadley said discussion at the PUC meeting indicated there may be a cost to customers who opt out of the advanced meters. Addressing that issue will be part of the rule-making process, he said.
The idea is that the most people want smart meters, and wouldn’t have to absorb any extra costs associated with letting some people opt out.
CenterPoint Energy began installing the meters in the Houston area in 2009, saying the devices give customers more control over their energy use and help them save money while allowing for quicker restoration of power after outages.
Installation generally has gone smoothly, but a few customers have resisted, citing privacy concerns and alleging power companies’ installation programs were heavy-handed.
A $3.24 monthly fee residential customers paid for the meters beginning in 2009 was cut to $3.05 last year. The surcharge is slated to end after six years.
Hadley said there are about 6.8 million meters in the competitive retail area of Texas. More than 90 percent of customers have been retrofitted with the smart meters, he said.