Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Were ‘smart meter’ savings a fib?

A Dec. 22 Mountain Express news update reported the swift completion of Idaho Power's smart meter installation, saying: "Idaho Power touted the cost savings and energy savings that have resulted from the initiative, including eliminating 80 vehicles from its fleet, saving on fuel and maintenance costs because employees are no longer driving 1.6 million miles per year to read meters, and eliminating access issues like locked gates and protective dogs." Yet, mere weeks later, the power company is raising its monthly customer service charge from $4 dollars to $5--a 25 percent increase! What type of savings is that?

This is not the first time in recent history that Idaho Power has slipped on a promise. You might recall the sleek glossy brochure it mailed when it first began implementing the smart meter switchover—it assured customers that service workers would notify them with a knock on the door. Comparing my own less-than-satisfactory experience on this with that of various neighbors indicates that this simple courtesy often did not happen.

Some folks across the heartland are speculating that these new meters are emitting overly powerful amounts of microwave radiation. However, an Idaho Power representative told the Express that our local brand of smart meter transmits personal information over the power lines only. I suppose that I can believe that for now. However, with the previous company overstatements in mind, I would be interested in learning more about how this really works.

Meanwhile, the same neighbors I talked with earlier are now joking some that Idaho Power installed a Men-in-Black-like zapper into these innovative meters in the hope of making consumers forget the grand savings that they promised us.

Jim Banholzer


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