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The Smart Grid and Smart Meter

New investments are being made to our nation’s electric power infrastructure.  The term smart grid is used to describe the application of information technology in upgrading the nation’s electric transmission and distribution systems. 

The smart grid is not a single program. It is generally described as the combination of information technology, communication networks, metering, and infrastructure modernization across the electric grid to improve efficiency and reliability.    

One of the most notable technology changes visible to Ohioans is the introduction of the smart meter.  This digital metering device replaces the traditional analog meter at a resident’s home.  The smart meter allows electric companies and consumers to monitor electricity consumption and can transmit this information back to the utility without the use of a meter reader.

By monitoring power usage in hourly (or less) increments, customers may be able shift usage patterns or take advantage of different electric pricing options to help reduce costs.  The meter and communications network provides information about electricity usage and other characteristics from the consumer’s home to the electric company and vice versa. This technology can also help identify potential service problems, the locations of outages, and can help expedite a utility’s restoration efforts after an outage occurs.      

But “smart” technology has raised some consumer concerns.  For example, there are potential privacy concerns with unauthorized disclosure of the detailed customer usage information.  In addition, smart meters can be remotely turned on and off by a utility. 

Therefore, electric utilities have sought to eliminate the long-held personal notice requirements prior to disconnecting service at a customer’s home for non-payment. Concerns have also been raised about electric companies not following all the proper steps to warn customers before shutting their power off. 

Another issue that has been gaining attention in regard to smart meters involves a customer’s right to opt-out of having a smart meter.  Customers who do not want a smart meter installed in their home, oftentimes citing health and privacy concerns, can be assessed both one-time charges and recurring monthly fees to opt-out of having a smart meter. 

In this regard, AEP Ohio and Duke Energy Ohio have proposed charges in cases that are currently pending before the PUCO.  Duke proposed charges were $1,037 one-time charge and a $40.63 per month that would continue for as long as a customer retains their standard meter. OCC opposed the charges.  The AEP Ohio proposed settlement with PUCO Staff was $43.00 one-time charge and $24 per month that would continue for as long as a customer retains their standard meter.  OCC opposed the stipulation.  The Office of the Ohio Consumers’ Counsel (OCC) opposed these charges as unjust and unreasonable and recommended that any additional charges be established through base rate cases where a thorough examination of the utility financial records can be performed prior to establishing the new charges.

Further information about Smart Grid and Ohio’s progress can be viewed below:

Fact Sheets

Newspaper Articles