Chris Bieber ushered me into his office at the MLGW headquarters at Second and Beale. A slim man with gray hair, Bieber is Vice President of Customer Care for the utility company. He had invited me after correspondence with my City Council member, Jim Strickland, concerning the smart meter technology the company has introduced.
I had voiced concerns about it. I have read that smart meter use is an invasion of privacy. Once placed at your house it monitors your energy use. The implications of it are serious as the government then has access and information about citizens. Then there are other problems reported by customers in other states, ranging from meters bursting into flames, radiation emissions and interference with routers, cordless devices, home security monitors and cell phones.
Mr. Bieber had read my blog and invited me to meet with him to discuss the smart meters. He had a printout of it on the table. Also present was a fellow employee, Mrs. King.
He explained to me that the program was begun in 2010. “We had 1,000 meters available and put it up on our website. We got 1800 applications.” Later they got 200 more of the GE meters which were modified by a Mississippi firm to become smart meters.
Recipients were determined by portioning meters among 30 zip codes. The idea was to have every City Council area represented. With recent City Council approval, 60,000 more will be placed in customer homes. After that, Bieber is optimistic that the entire city will be in the program, as it already is in Chattanooga.
Part of it has to do with stimulus money the Obama administration has for this program. “There are 80 million households in the United States,” Bieber said. “40 million will have smart meters by 2015 because of this money.”
And what if some people are averse to it? “I invite them to spend time with our charming selves,” he said of his persuasive talents.
Next: How the smart meter could have you doing laundry at 2 a.m. and running the dishwasher then, too.