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TMCNet:  Lakeland Electric to begin installing 'opt-out' meters

[December 28, 2012]

Lakeland Electric to begin installing 'opt-out' meters

LAKELAND, Dec 28, 2012 (The Ledger - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Lakeland Electric workers next week will begin installing new digital meters for 80 customers who have chosen to opt out of the smart meter program.


Some residents who pushed for the opt-out program are still upset.

"I want to keep my analog meter," said Treasa Towson, a North Lakeland resident. "I plan on guarding my meter over here." "That's my suggestion to everyone else who is left with analogs." Towson had originally padlocked her power box to prevent installation of a smart meter.

The controversy over smart meters stems from residents in Lakeland and around the United States who contend the devices are an invasion of privacy and cause health problems.

Utility officials have said the devices are a benefit and allow customers to monitor their electrical usage online. Over time, the utility will save hundreds of thousands of dollars as meter readers retire and the utility does not need to fill the positions, officials have said.

The meters for the opt-out program must be read by a meter reader, unlike the new smart meters, which can be read remotely.

"There is no two-way communication," Randy Dotson, project manager for the smart meter program, said of the new opt- out meters.

The opt-out meters offered by Lakeland Electric aren't good enough for Towson.

"I don't want a meter with a chip in it," Towson said. "That's not an opt out." "How stupid do they think we are " Since November, utility officials have been making phone calls to customers who want to opt out of the program. Dotson said they've had trouble contacting about 50 people who had said they wished to opt out.

City commissioners voted 7-0 in November to approve a monthly $16.25 fee for Lakeland Electric customers who opt out. The monthly fee and a $65 fee for meter equipment starts after March 1.

Nearly all of the 122,000 new meters for Lakeland Electric customers have been installed.

Dotson said customers won't be allowed to keep analog meters.

"We want to get meters that are the same age and technology," Dotson said.

Analog meters have become obsolete, he said. "We don't want to support older technology anymore." Pacific Gas and Electric Co. in northern and central California allows residents to either keep their analog meters or have an analog meter installed. There is a one-time charge of $75 and a $10 monthly charge for those who want to opt out, said Paul Moreno, a spokesman for Pacific Gas and Electric.

The opt-out program started Feb. 1, Moreno said. Of the utility's 5 million customers, 33,000, or less than one-half of 1 percent, chose to opt out.

The meter industry is moving away from making analog meters, but Moreno said the utility has a stock of the old analogs from customers who had smart meters installed.

___ (c)2012 The Ledger (Lakeland, Fla.) Visit The Ledger (Lakeland, Fla.) at www.theledger.com Distributed by MCT Information Services

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