Rationing and control of your usage of electricity, water, and gas, and a constant incursion into your privacy, are better descriptors of what smart meters are intended to do. A good friend sent me this story about her bizarre problem with experimental smart meters of long ago.
Dominion Virginia Power started a program in the late 1980s. Carol signed their home onto a package which installed a device in their hot water heater. It was promoted as an electricity-saving gadget and it did not cost them anything, on the contrary, they received a $4 a month credit. The device turned the water heater off during peak usage, usually during summer months when demand for air conditioning was highest. This was implemented in order to save the electric company the trouble of having more electricity stored in excess-capacity facilities which are expensive to build.
The Dominion Virginia Power cancelled the program in 1997 because, according to Carol, the device caused innumerable problems and, when these gadgets broke, a regular plumber or electrician could not fix them. Although the program was terminated long ago, she still received that $4 credit per month because, “if they eliminated said credit, it would be like they were raising our rates because their technology didn’t work. Crazy!”
Carol’s water heater finally broke in October 2015. After a plumber and electrician were called to their home and neither one could fix the problem, her household was out $220 just to have the plumber step in the door. The plumber did come twice, did not charge for the second visit but cautioned that, if he had to come back, the regular $110 service call would apply.
Left with the only option, Carol called the Dominion Virginia Power expert but he could not fix the problem either. The only Dominion Virginia Power repairman who is the expert at fixing this particular gadget issue was busy in Virginia Beach, three and half hours away. By the end of the week, he did make a service call to their house and now Carol and her family have hot water again.
In spite of their ordeal, having to do without hot water for a few days pales by comparison with my experience under the inept communism of my childhood and young adult years when we did not have hot water all summer long and only a couple of hours in the very early morning every day for the rest of the year. You had to get up at 4 a.m. if you wanted to bathe or wash your clothes or dishes. Worse yet, we did not have any water at all during the day whenever the government decided that we could have it and they could not deliver it. And we did pay our bills on time, we had to, everything was withheld from the paycheck before the working class received meager wages for their labor. But then again, village folks or suburbia did not have any plumbing and running water and many still don’t have it to this day.
Given the trouble and the cost they had to incur, Carol’s family believes that “most of the Virginia power credit $$$ we’ve saved over the years, we spent this weekend to fix the problem this device caused.” The only ray of sunshine for Carol was finding out from the expert that they did not have the new-style smart meter, just its less controllable cousin. Just imagine what other problems the far more sophisticated and expensive new-style smart meter could have caused!
Many people have willingly accepted the smart meter installation because of the sign-on bonuses of $40-$100 offered and the promise of cheaper electricity. As the promises soured, electricity costs skyrocketed even though consumption in many cases declined, and smart meters caused home fires, customers in California have turned to class action lawsuits.
Of course, there is always the “opt-out” option which is available in most states. Utilities are obligated to offer customers this choice. However, it can be expensive in many states, should one decide to keep traditional meters in order to preserve health, privacy, and the ability to purchase truly cheaper electricity.