Duke Energy is in the process of completing the installtion of more than 1-million so-called 'smart meters' in Buncombe County. The meters will allow Duke to record power usage directly without having to send someone to read the meter. A handful of customers in Buncombe County have tried to opt out of using the meters - an action that has consequences. Jason Sandford of AshVegas spoke with those customers to see what happened to them. He sat down with BPR's Matt Bush to discuss what he found out.
A reminder of what smart meters are - "This technology allows Duke to get your electrical power usage reading sent directly to a central station. It eliminates the use of the old-fashioned meter reader, or even the sort of in-between technology which has been Duke would have somebody drive by in a truck and some of the current meters would send out a signal or the truck would be able to pick up the signal that would send your electrical usage reading. The smart meters use radio frequencies. This is a common technology that's used in wifi routers and many other electronic devices."
How many in the Asheville area of opted out of using smart meters and what has happened to them - "Here in Asheville there have been, and I'm little unclear of the exact number, two to four families who have been really opposed to the new meters. They have gone to great lengths to send letters, create form documents that they got signed by attorneys, to tell Duke they do not want the new smart meters and that they were going to install their own meters, which these families did about two or three weeks ago. In response Duke Energy arrived and cut all electrical power to those homes. These families are now using generators for their electricity. Duke says tampering with their property is illegal. It's a misdemeanor according to North Carolina state law. The Duke Energy spokeswoman I spoke with says there are ongoing talks with these families about what may happen next, but it sounds like they're still at an impasse."
Why these families did not want to use Duke's smart meters - "The objections to smart meters are mostly about health concerns. They claim these smart meters give off a type of radiation that's harmful. They also claim utility companies can surveill local residences with smart meter technologies. Duke Energy of course says that's not true. The smart meters use radio frequencies and they are not surveilling anybody and that the technology can better help the customer manage their electrical usage."
The State Utilities Commission did set up a process for those who wish not to use smart meters - "We will start to receive postcards in the mail from Duke alerting users that smart meters will be installed. Those will include phone numbers to call if you want to opt out of the program. There are two ways to do that. One is essentially to get a doctor's note saying you shouldn't be exposed to the smart meter technology. Secondarily, you could just tell Duke 'I don't want the new smart meters' and in that case you'll be paying a one-time $150 fee and a monthly charge of around $11.50, which is an extra fee for the old-fashioned meter readers to come out."