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House Committee Holds Hearing on Smart Meter Opt-Out Legislation

The House Consumer Affairs Committee held a public hearing to discuss House Bill 2188, which would allow customers to opt-out of smart meter technology.

The bill’s author, Rep. Mike Reese (R-Westmoreland) told the committee that the hearing was the beginning of a much needed conversation on government mandates on energy usage and control of information. Rep. Reese went on to say that the issue of smart meters was brought to his attention by a constituent, and upon review, he believes that smart meters should be a choice made by consumers, not mandated by government.

The Committee’s Chair noted that smart meter technology has been used for more than 30 years, but became a mandate as part of electric conservation strategy deployed in Act 129 of 2008. The Act includes a 15-year roll out period for installation of smart meters. Electric utilities considered many factors prior to submitting their metering plans.

PUC Chairman Robert Powelson testified before the Committee that he supports the use of smart meters, citing many positive outcomes of the technology, including management of usage, outage management, faster restoration of power, and keeping fewer utility trucks off of the road.

Powelson went onto say that Act 129 creates regulatory certainty. It will be difficult for utilities to communicate with customers using old meters, eliminating the cost advantages of deploying the technology. As an example, Powelson explained that a utility can access all meters and within minutes determine which segment of the grid has an issue, helping to avoid outages or restore service faster.

Testifiers at the hearing, including representatives from PPL, the Energy Association of Pennsylvania, and the Retail Energy Supply Association, agreed that HB 2188 could be detrimental to the state’s electric management and conservation goals, and they support the continued deployment of smart meters.

PUC Issues for Comment Next Steps for Future Energy Efficiency, Conservation Programs; Announces Act 129 Stakeholder Meeting.