Kentucky utilities try again to get approval for Smart Meter roll-out; Attorney General calls proposal “premature”

Last March, [Attorney General Andy] Beshear successfully fought to get smart meters cleaved from a plan to increases rates as too expensive. “After careful review of the filings in this case, we find little support that smart meter deployment will benefit the ratepayers in any way,”  Beshear said at the time.

From Louisville Courier Journal

Rejecting smart utility meters could cost you $260-$540 a year in LG&E and KU rate plan

January 3, 2018
By James Bruggers

For the second time, two big Kentucky utilities have asked regulators for permission to install 1.3 million smart meters on their customers’ homes and businesses.

This time, Louisville Gas and Electric and Kentucky Utilities are offering to let customers who reject the new technology to opt out but at a substantial cost.

Chris Whelan, the spokeswoman for both, broke it down like this:

  • For KU customers, the proposed opt-out charge would consist of a one-time fee of $72.71 and $32.45 per month.
  • For LG&E electric customers, a $57.86 fee and $22.70 recurring monthly charge.
  • For LG&E natural gas customers, the proposed costs are $57.86 followed by a $21.80 recurring monthly fee.

The companies say the meters save money and allow them to respond more quickly to restore power during outages, such as big storms.

They had proposed, and pulled, what they call “advanced meters” from a rate increase proposal last year, amid various controversies and concerns about cost. Whelan said that for customers who get the new meters, there would be no immediate change in rates despite the $350 million in installation costs.

In a news release, the company said those costs would be “more than offset by the savings and benefits advanced meters provide over their lifetime and is comparable to the amount other utilities have invested.”

Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear isn’t buying it.

“This move is premature, and this office continues to have serious concerns with smart meter applications,” he said in a written statement Wednesday. “In a settlement … just last year, the companies’ agreed to withdraw a similar smart meter application.

“In return, our office agreed to participate in a process to voice our concerns, but not to support a new application less than a year later.”

The Kentucky Public Service Commission will scrutinize the proposed Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity filed by the companies over the next few months, said Andrew Melnykovych, the commission spokesman. The PCS approved a Duke Energy plan for smart meters in Northern Kentucky last year. There, the opt-out fee was $100, plus $25 a month.

Nationally, tens of millions of the advanced meters have been installed, < 3/lge-and-smart-meters-get-tin-foil-hats/94335358/> sometimes controversially with concerns about health effects from radio frequency waves, privacy and security. Duke tells its customers that the radio signals are far below the levels emitted by common household appliances and electronics, including cellphones and microwave ovens, and that their customers’ data is secure.

At least one public interest group opposes the meters, which would replace those that need to be read in person monthly by LG&E personnel.

Too much is unknown in terms of reward, while cost is very high,” said Cathy Hinko the executive director of the Metropolitan Housing Coalition, which participated in meetings with the utilities and other groups in recent months. “I find the lack of specificity of savings from other areas that have used smart meters to be unnecessarily elusive and, therefore, unreliable.”

Advanced meters will offer customers near-real-time energy-use information through an online dashboard that can help them better manage their power usage and save money, the companies said. Whelan said a current dashboard used in a pilot program would be replaced with one that’s easier to use.

Advanced meters also allow utilities to better determine where outages are occurring, quickly diagnose the cause of the outage and, at times, respond more efficiently, the news release said.

“We’ve learned a great deal about advanced meters through the pilot programs we’ve offered over the years,” said David Huff, director of energy efficiency and emerging technologies for the companies. “Today’s advanced meters are much more sophisticated than those 10 years ago, and we are receiving positive feedback from customers who participate in our current early adopter program.”

Last March, Beshear successfully fought to get smart meters cleaved from a plan to increases rates as too expensive. “After careful review of the filings in this case, we find little support that smart meter deployment will benefit the ratepayers in any way,” < s-big-cut-lge-ku-rate-plan/98960212/> Beshear said at the time.

Whelan said the meters would be installed over three years, possibly starting later in 2018, for a program that would be completed in five.

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