In a show of support for the Florida Public Service Commission’s (FPSC) Staff Recommendations regarding Florida Power and Light’s (FP&L’s) petition for smart meter opt-out fees, Commissioner Brise stated “It helps the system as a whole by making sure there is a sufficient incentive that everyone can move in the direction of smart meters.” Ken Rubin of FP&L previously commented at the hearing that the fee needed to be around $100 (high enough) to create a “sufficient disincentive to opt out”.
The Commission never addressed the written comments from the public that dealt with health issues caused by the smart meters. Not one question was raised whether medical exemptions should be given for those falling ill from these devices or whether the American Disabilities Act required an exemption. They never addressed multi-family dwelling and property rights issues either. And God forbid any of the Commissioner’s ask a reasonable question as to whether there is a way to mitigate and lower these costs – such as customer self-reads. Nope, none were addressed although many public commenters made such recommendations to the Commission.
The Commission also did not address the specifics of a “non-communicating” meter. Although FP&L did state that if the customer managed to hold onto its analog meter they would be able to keep them for now. But those that didn’t and want to get rid of the smart meter will get a “non-communicating” meter of FP&L’s choice, even though the Commission was alerted through public comments that digital non-communicating meters were found to still cause health issues in states such as California and Nevada. These State’s Commissions eventually had to order that analogs be the replacement meter to alleviate public outcry. It is also not clear whether FP&L’s “non-communicating” meters contain the computer and storage to collect interval usage data that customers with privacy issues object to. But I guess we all know by now that our Fourth Amendment rights are gone (NSA scandals) and who cares about the “takings” clause in the Constitution.
The Commission never addressed communication issues for this new tariff either. FP&L does not plan to let all it’s customers know about this option. They only plan to alert via letter those 24,000 customers who are formally on their “postpone” list. The other 12,000 customers who refused access to their premises or barricaded their meters will be “automatically enrolled” and charged the fee. They will have 45 days after being charged to comply (let FP&L onto their property and install the smart meter) or the charges will stand. If they comply, they will reverse the charges.
What about the other 4.464 million customers? They will receive no notification of this option – unless you readers tell them. The least they know the better! Industry surveys show that most people don’t even know they have a smart meter or what it is. The same applies to FP&L’s customers based on my research.
Although almost 40,000 have rejected the smart meter, the costs are based on only 12,000 electing to enroll in the new tariff. They believe the fees will be high enough to make 24,000 comrades see the right way and comply. By using a lower figure it makes the costs higher and ensures everyone “moves in the direction of smart meters.” If you used the correct number (36,000 +), then the upfront fee on a real cost basis would be about a third or about $30. At that level than more people could afford to keep the meter off their homes and that would be inconsistent with FP&L and FPSC’s goal of moving everyone onto a smart meter.
I know there has been conditioning done on the public to believe that extra costs will be incurred and those opting out should pay that cost. But to those I ask, where is the fee to be put on budget billing? That non-standard billing service cost money to develop and money to run and there is NO fee to elect this service. We all paid for it. The Commission failed to address how that non-standard service is different. A service everyone is paying for but only a few receive a benefit.
“Cost causers” in the Commission’s world is very different than you may think. The one-time fee includes a $77 field visit charge. FP&L assumes they will need to make a field visit at least once to the expected 12,000 enrollees in this program. The Commissioners spent a lot of time making sure if a customer had an analog meter and enrolled in the smart meter opt out program and FP&L had to go out there 4-5 times over the 3-5 yr. period that the customer be only charged once. But if FP&L never had to go out it was okay to charge the customer for a field visit that they would never have. It was perfectly logical to spread the costs to all the opt-outers and not to charge the individual “cost causer” for multiple visits.
Equally important, they all agreed that if after the initial enrollment period a customer bought a home with an analog and wanted a smart meter then FP&L would roll that truck and install a smart meter for free. But if a customer bought a house with an analog and wanted to keep it, they would need to enroll and pay the $95 fee even though FP&L didn’t need to roll a truck and the service visit included in the enrollment fee would not occur. Oh brave new world!
So if you are on the “postpone” list expect a letter telling you to enroll. You will be charged a $95 one-time fee and $13/month for the pleasure of not having a smart meter. These charges per FP&L will start around May 2014. Protests to the Order must be filed within 21 days.
Not happy with the Commission ruling and want to protest it?