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Texans may be allowed to opt out of smart meters

Posting in Energy

Some 6.2 million smart meters have been installed in Texas. Now, the state's Public Utility Commission may allow folks to opt out of using them in the wake of opposition over the high-tech devices.

The PUC could take up the issue next week, reported the Houston Chronicle. State legislators have said they will do something if the commissioners don't act.

Texas legislators gave smart meters, a two-way communication device which can identify energy consumption in greater detail and transmit the information between a home or business and the utility, the go-ahead seven years ago.

The rollout of smart meters has had its hiccups, largely due to a poor deployment strategy that focused on installing the devices, not explaining their worth to customers. In Texas, and elsewhere, a vocal, yet small, opposition has mounted an opposition over concerns the radio frequency signals used by the meters will trigger adverse health effects.

CenterPoint Energy, for example, began installing meters in the Houston area in 2009. The utility has spent $150 million install more than 2.2 million smart meters and applied another $50 million to its smart grid initiative, according to the Houston Chronicle.

Most of the installations there went smoothly. However, there were protests. And when some customers refused, they were told the installation was mandatory and their power would be shut off unless they relented.

Texas isn't the first U.S. state--nor likely the last--to grapple with the massive deployments of smart meters. California utility PG&E was the poster child for how-not-to-deploy smart meters. And protests have prompted a handful of states, including California, Maine and Nevada, allow residents to opt out of smart meter programs typically for a fee.

Photo: Flickr user Miss Efficiency, CC 2.0

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— By on December 6, 2012, 12:47 AM PST

Kirsten Korosec

Contributing Editor

Kirsten Korosec has written for Technology Review, Marketing News, The Hill, BNET and Bloomberg News. She holds a degree from Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. She is based in Tucson, Arizona. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure