Making room for a potential customer opt-out from smart meters, Baltimore Gas and Electric (BGE), Pepco, and Delmarva Power outlined potential opt-out plans at a recent public hearing on the topic, according to a Maryland Gazette report by Sara Blumberg.
BGE executives proposed a plan that would let customers pay their way out of the program. But those who want to keep their existing, analog meters would have to pay a $50 one-time fee. Plus they'd get a monthly fee—anwhere from $10 to $60—Wayne Harbaugh, director of pricing and regulator services at BGE said during the Public Service Commission (PSC) hearing Tuesday, the Gazette reported.
As electric companies move forward in their efforts to install smart meters in homes and businesses across Maryland, some customers worry that the radiation they emit could cause cancer or other maladies.
But Pepco says the meters do not pose a health risk. Pepco and Delmarva Power support the position that RF exposure from smart meters is far below and less frequent than other common electric devices, such as cell phones and baby monitors.
The problem with smart meters is not just their radio frequency radiation levels, it is the chronic continual nature of their transmissions, according to Kate Kheel, Vice President of Maryland Smart Meter Awareness.
When smart meters are in a communication period with Pepco, they relay thousands of brief communications, according to an April 9 letter from Pepco to the D.C. Office of People's Counsel.
But the communication periods are so brief that Pepco's website states individual smart meters are idle 99 percent of the time.
Customers showed up and spoke out at the PSC hearing—to the tune of more than 120 people who came, voicing concerns that smart meter technology presents a health hazard and would infringe on their privacy, according to the Gazette report. At times they shouted out their disapproval, the Gazette's report noted.
Many also said that the electric companies should cover opt-out costs—after all customers didn't ask to get smart meters.
“I bought a cellphone, I bought an iPad, I chose to do those things. I wasn’t asked if I wanted a smart meter in my home,” said Millersville resident Traci Radice, according to the report.
Commissioners questioned the cost estimates, asking how much an opt-out program would cost the companies as well as the consumer, the report states.
The PSC denied requests to put a moratorium on the meters, but agreed to investigate the possibility of an opt-out plan, according to the Maryland Gazette report. The commission plans to rule in a month, the report stated.