Smart Meters Continued

To MLGW Vice President Chris Bieber, installing smart meters that record energy usage in your home is a way of “making the tools accessible to have lower rates.”

The meters work by collecting data from your house and then showing the peak usage times. “We won’t know when you turn the stove on and we won’t know which appliances you’re using,” he explains. How this information translates into lower utility bills is through a time of use fee. “We match up the price with the time you use it,” he says.

In other words, you would be charged less if you do your laundry at 2 a.m. or run the dishwasher at non peak hours. High energy users are heaters and motors such as those found in dishwashers and dryers. MLGW wants to avoid drains on the system by having customers cut back on them at work time, dinner time or times of extreme weather.

For now, MLGW does not have a bigger profile of your usage because most appliances don’t have a chip in them that would communicate with the smart meter. “But in 20 years every appliance may have a smart chip in it,” he says.

In a world where the government can and does collect all kinds of data on individuals; when facebook and twitter messages you send are monitored if officials want to; when the President allows drones to kill Americans overseas without any due process, smart meters are another way of giving even more information about you to authorities. And with what goal in mind?

Bieber does not deny that behavior modification is an outcome of this system. Not directly, of course, but indirectly. That kind of invasion of privacy with its implications has driven many people around the country to resist smart meters in their homes. It is a form of gathering information, sharing it, harvesting and maybe even marketing it. Surveillance, if you like. I asked what assurance I have that it won’t be forced upon me, given that resisters in some states have been arrested.

While Bieber affirms that an opt out is available, he can see a fee of, say $10 monthly attached to the bills of those who do so. Or, your meter can be read once a year and you would pay a set amount monthly with extra charges applied later. “Those who opt out are not our enemies,” he says, but in truth, the whole system cannot operate well with people opting out. Ultimate success relies on complete compliance, otherwise it’s not feasible.

He acknowledged that the same services you get at a certain price now, may remain the same – for now – but you will be paying more than people with smart meters who are adjusting their lifestyles to the rules of MLGW. There is no assurance that you won’t be further penalized.

Next: Is Shelby County the biggest energy hog in the nation?

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