Smart Meter Opt-Out Policies

Daniel Shea and Kate Bell 8/20/2019

Introduction

electric power meter energy

Like most other technologies, electric meters look much different than they did 20 years ago. They function differently too. These new “smart meters” are considered vital to grid modernization efforts, providing an array of real-time information to utilities and grid operators that allows them to develop a better understanding of electricity usage and consumer behavior. So far, utilities have installed more than 70 million smart meters covering over 50% of U.S. households. By 2020, that number could reach 90 million.

But as utilities increasingly deploy smart meters, a small number of groups oppose their installation, citing a variety of health and privacy concerns about the new technology. This opposition has led at least seven states to enact policies to allow customers to opt-out of having a smart meter installed on their home, while New Hampshire requires customer consent for smart meter installation and Pennsylvania law prohibits opt-outs. In another 22 states, utility regulators have ruled on whether utilities can implement opt-out programs on a case-by-case basis. In recent years, the issue has more frequently landed before state legislatures, with at least 17 states considering smart meter opt-out legislation in the past four legislative sessions.

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Interactive Map: Smart Meter Opt-Out Policies

Legend

  • Unique statewide policies
  • Statewide opt-out policy in place
  • PUC case-by-case opt-out programs
  • No opt-out policies in place

Select the state on the map to learn more about its policies.

Longer descriptiont than title AL AK AZ AR CA CO CT DE FL GA HI ID IL IN IA KS KY LA ME MD MA MI MN MO MS MT NE NV NH NY NJ NM NC ND OH OK OR PA RI SC SD TN TX UT VT VA WA WV WI WY DC AS GU MP PR VI

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AZ flagArizona

Opt-out programs vary among participating utilities. One-time fees range from $38 to $50, while monthly charges range from $5 to $26. At least one utility company prohibits solar customers from opting out while allowing other customers to take part in the program

IL flagIllinois

The Illinois Commerce Commission currently allows Ameren and Commonwealth Edison customers to opt out for a roughly $20 monthly charge. However, the Commission ruled that Commonwealth Edison’s opt-out and deferral program will end in 2022, at which point the utility’s customers will be required to have smart meters installed in their homes

KY flagKentucky

The Public Service Commission approves opt-out programs on a case-by-case basis, though the Commission has stated its general opposition to these programs in the past. The Commission has approved an opt-out program consisting of a $100 one-time fee and a $25 monthly charge. Customers notifying the utility company of their decision to opt out prior to installation can have the one-time fee waived.

ME flagMaine

Following the passage of Maine Rev. Stat. 35 §3143, which provided for the deployment of smart meters, the Public Utilities Commission ordered utility companies to offer opt-out provisions for customers. The opt-out programs are standardized across all IOUs and include three options for customers electing not to have smart meters installed in their homes:

  1. A $40 one-time fee and $15.66 monthly charge to retain an analog meter;
  2. 2. A $20 one-time fee and $13.98 monthly charge to install a smart meter with the two-way transmitter turned off;
  3. 3. Ratepayer-covered installation fees for smart meters requested to be installed off-site.

MS flagMissouri

At least one opt-out program is in effect, with a $150 one-time fee and a $45 monthly charge.

NV flagNevada

The Public Utilities Commission has approved one opt-out program, which includes a $52 one-time fee for reinstalling an analog meter and a $9 monthly charge.

OH flagOhio

Ohio Administrative Code 4901:1-10-05 (J) requires that utility companies offer opt-out programs and includes a process for how utilities may assess any associated fees.

OR flagOregon

Some utility companies offer opt-out programs with associated service fees. The Public Service Commission implemented a new standard of tri-annual meter reads, resulting in a $9 monthly charge for customers electing to opt out of smart meter installation.

PA flagPennsylvania

Act 129 of 2008 requires the largest utility companies in the state to deploy smart meters across their entire service territories and does not permit customers from opting out of installation.

RI flagRhode Island

The Public Utilities Commission has approved an opt-out program including a $27 one-time fee and a $13 monthly charge.

SC flagSouth Carolina

The Public Service Commission approved an opt-out program that required participating customers to pay a $150 one-time fee along with an $11.75 monthly charge. The utility’s program went into effect in November 2017.

WI flagWisconsin

While no opt-out programs are currently offered, any utilities wishing to implement an opt-out program for a fee in the future must first receive approval from the Public Service Commission.

WY flagWyoming

The Public Service Commission has approved an opt-out program with a $50 one-time fee.

(May change by 2020 – deadline for PUC to determine whether to mandate programs)

NJ flagNew Jersey

The Board of Public Utilities approved an opt-out program offered by Rockland Electric Co., which includes a $45 one-time smart meter removal fee and a $15 monthly charge.

VT flagVermont

State statute (30 V.S.A. § 2811 (b)) requires that utility companies give customers written notice prior to installation and allow customers to remove an existing smart meter or opt out at no

CA flagCalifornia

Standardized opt-out fees were implemented by the Public Utilities Commission for all the state’s IOUs. The fees consist of a $75 one-time fee and a $10 monthly charge, which is limited to three years. For qualifying low-income customers, these opt-out costs are reduced to a $10 one-time fee and a $5 monthly charge.

FL flagFlorida

Utilities can choose whether to allow opt outs. However, if a utility company wishes to impose additional opt-out charges, it must receive approval from the Public Service Commission. The Commission has approved several opt-out plans, with one-time fees ranging from $89 to $96 and monthly charges ranging from $13 to $21.

GA flagGeorgia

The Public Service Commission leaves the decision to offer opt-out programs up to the discretion of the utility companies, but any associated fees or charges must first receive Commission approval. The Commission has approved at least one opt-out program with a $19 monthly charge.

HI flagHawaii

Most IOUs allow customers to opt out at an additional cost, which typically consists of a one-time fee around $50 and a monthly charge of $15.30 or less. The Hawaii Electric Light Company began offering an opt-in plan in 2017.

IN flagIndiana

The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission has approved an opt-out program with a $75 one-time fee and a $17.50 monthly charge. The one-time fee is waived if customers notify the utility company of their intent to opt out prior to installation.

IA flagIowa

In February 2019, the Iowa Utilities Board ruled that Interstate Power and Light’s residential customers must be allowed to opt out of smart meter installation on at no extra charge, keep their analog meters until the meters need replacement, and receive non-transmitting digital AMI options upon request. The ruling does not preclude the company or any other utility providers from submitting opt-out fee proposals for the board to review in future rate cases.

LA flagLouisiana

The Public Service Commission has approved an opt-out program for Entergy Louisiana. Customers choosing to opt out pay a $14.35 monthly charge, with an additional $12.42 monthly charge levied against ratepayers in New Orleans.

MD flagMaryland

In 2013, the Public Service Commission ruled that utility companies must offer opt-out provisions. The Commission established a standardized $75 one-time fee and authorized monthly fees ranging from $11 to $17 depending on the utility.

MA flagMassachusetts

The Public Utility Commission directed all electric distribution companies in the state that plan to install smart meters to present opt-out program proposals for the Commission’s approval. The proposals would need to detail any associated opt-out fees as well as the utility’s plans for implementing a customer communication program.

MI flagMichigan

The Public Service Commission has approved opt-out programs with one-time fees between $67 and $124, and monthly charges of around $9.80. One utility offers a reduced one-time fee for customers who give notice of their decision to opt out prior to installation.

NH flagNew Hampshire

New Hampshire Rev. Stat § 374:62 establishes an opt-in policy, requiring utility companies to obtain written consent from home- or business-owners prior to installation. There is no fee assessed on customers who choose to keep their analog meters.

NY flagNew York

The New York Public Service Commission allows utilities to decide whether to implement opt-out programs with any associated fees, subject to Commission approval. The Commission approved an opt-out program for Commonwealth Edison customers, consisting of a one-time fee around $105 and a $9.50 monthly charge.

NC flagNorth Carolina

The Public Utilities Commission authorized an opt-out program which includes a $150 one-time fee and an $11.75 monthly charge. In June 2018, the Commission ruled to waive these fees for customers with notarized doctors’ notes confirming health issues related to the smart meter technology.

OK flagOklahoma

The Public Service Commission approved an opt-out program consisting of a $110 one-time fee and a $28 monthly charge.

TX flagTexas

In 2013, the Public Utilities commission adopted the Non-Standard Metering Service Rule, which authorized opt-out programs and associated fees. The fees vary by utility.

(customers can request 2-way transmission be turned off)

WA flagWashington

The Utilities and Transportation Commission issued a policy and interpretive statement in 2018 regarding customer choice for smart meter installation, indicating its preference that utility companies offer opt-out programs. However, the statement is a non-binding, unenforceable rule, leaving the decision on whether to offer programs up to individual utilities. The Commission has approved various opt-out programs, with one-time fees ranging from $50 to $90 and monthly and bimonthly charges ranging from $5 to $15, respectively. The monthly charges can be waived for income-qualified customers.

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What is a Smart Meter?

Smart meters are replacing traditional analog electric meters as the U.S. energy grid becomes increasingly digital. Also known as advanced metering infrastructure (AMI), smart meters measure and record electricity use at least hourly and feed that data to utilities and consumers at least daily. These meters enable two-way power and information flows that provide a digital link between electric companies and their customers and open the door to new and expanded services, such as time-based pricing, load control, budget billing, high-usage alerts, push notifications and web services for energy management. 

The general term "advanced meters" also includes meters with one-way, meter-to-utility communication (called automated meter reading, or AMR).

Many consumers and utility companies favor smart meters over traditional meters due to their expanded service options, and experts consider them vital to grid modernization as they connect the electricity needs of one consumer with the rest of the grid. Information from smart meters can help consumers save money by letting them manage energy use in real-time, while utilities save money because they no longer need to send meter readers to every home in a service area on a monthly basis. 

By taking real-time measurements, smart meters also provide outage notification and power quality monitoring that help utilities restore service quickly during a storm or other disruption. The data from smart meters help improve grid operations, integrate distributed energy resources like residential solar panels, provide customer services, and support innovative electricity pricing.

Why Would Someone Want to Opt Out?

Smart meter opponents have expressed concerns about health impacts, consumer and data privacy and increased cybersecurity risks smart meters potentially pose. The North Carolina Public Utilities Commission has taken these concerns into account, ruling in June 2018 to waive opt-out fees for customers with notarized doctors’ notes confirming health issues relating to AMI technology. 

Other public utility commissions have concluded that these claims are largely unfounded. The Maine Supreme Court has also weighed in by ruling that smart meters do not pose a credible health or safety threat, basing its opinion on over 100 peer-reviewed scientific studies about the technology’s safety impacts. 

To assuage concerns over customer privacy, several states—including California, Illinois, New Hampshire and Texas—have enacted laws or implemented new regulations restricting how utilities can use customer data collected through smart meters. These new laws generally restrict utilities from sharing customer data with third parties without fully disclosing the secondary commercial purpose to customers and receiving their permission. Aggregated data tends to be excluded from protection under these laws because it is not personally identifiable. 

State Opt-Out Policies

With these concerns in mind, at least seven states have created statewide policies that allow consumers to opt-out of smart meter installation or to have their smart meter replaced by an analog meter. Montana may join this group in the coming year; a state law passed in 2019 requires the Public Service Commission to determine whether to establish a statewide opt-out program by July 1, 2020. At least another 22 states have allowed electric utilities to implement opt-out programs through proceedings with public utility commissions. 

Only New Hampshire has established an opt-in policy, which requires utilities to obtain written consent from customers to install smart meters, while Pennsylvania statute implicitly prohibits opt-outs by mandating deployment of smart meters to all residential customers. In Idaho and Wisconsin, the public utility commissions have denied requests to allow opt-outs. The Kentucky Public Service Commission has expressed its general opposition to opt-outs but has still approved opt-out programs for several utilities. In March 2019, the Kansas Corporation Commission took a similar approach, deciding not to mandate opt-out programs, instead of leaving their implementation up to the utilities’ discretion. 

In almost every case, customers who elect to opt-out of smart meter installation are charged to do so—often through a one-time “set-up fee,” followed by monthly fees associated with the cost of sending out meter-readers. The fees can vary considerably. A utility in Rhode Island charges a one-time fee of $27, while a Texas utility’s one-time fee is $171. The monthly fees range from around $9 to $32. 

California’s state policy established a one-time fee of $75 and a monthly fee of $10, which is similar to other states that have set fees. However, the state makes an exception for income-qualified customers who wish to opt-out, with the one-time fee dropping to $10, and a $5 monthly fee.

Most states with opt-out programs either require that a customer allow a smart meter to be installed or pay to opt-out. Maine, however, offers a suite of options: Customers can retain an analog meter for a one-time fee of $40 and a monthly fee of $15.66; they can choose to have a smart meter’s transmitter turned off for a one-time fee of $20 and a monthly fee of $13.98; or they can choose to pay for the cost of relocating the meter farther from their home.

Other states have tried different routes. Illinois doesn’t allow opt-outs for customers in certain service territories but has permitted those customers to defer installation until 2022, at which point all homes in that service territory are required to have smart meters. Similarly, a Virginia utility doesn’t allow opt-outs but will turn off the two-way communication on their smart meters at customers’ requests.

Only two states allow customers to refuse smart meters at no cost: New Hampshire and Vermont. However, in a February 2019 decision, the Iowa Utilities Board ruled that Interstate Power and Light’s residential customers must be allowed to opt-out at no additional charge following a tense rate case. The ruling does not preclude Interstate or any other utility from submitting opt-out fee proposals for future consideration.

Legislation to implement statewide policies have been introduced with increased frequency as more utilities begin AMI deployments. Since 2016, legislators in at least 17 states have introduced smart meter opt-out bills, although few of these have passed. In most cases, these bills would permit customers to opt-out without incurring any additional costs. However, in 2016, a bill in New Hampshire would have reversed the state’s opt-in policy by permitting utilities to assess a surcharge on customers who choose to opt-out of smart meter installation. Though the bill ultimately failed, its consideration demonstrates that the state’s earlier decision to allow customers to freely decline smart meter installation is not without its critics. 

Supporters argue that as smart meter installation becomes more common and customers become more familiar with the technology, the issue of smart meter opt-outs is likely to fade. Until that time, however, some states will continue to consider opt-out policies to provide greater customer choice.