OG&E Installs 800,000 Smart Meters
Jan 07, 2013 (Times Record - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Those who grew up in an earlier time may have had a father who relentlessly moved from room to room flipping off light switches or reminding us to shut doors and windows in an effort to trim the cost of monthly electric bills.
Those dads may have welcomed the resources at their disposal today, such as homes equipped with smart-meter technology installed over the past year in homes and businesses served by Oklahoma Gas & Electric Co.
OG&E has installed about 800,000 of the meters systemwide, according to Brian Alford, director of community affairs for the Oklahoma-based utility. The company undertook the program in 2009 with Oklahoma customers and moved into its Arkansas service area last March.
Cost of the conversion is about $357 million, Alford said. The U.S. Department of Energy funded 36 percent of the total, about $130 million, part of $4.5 billion provided for smart-grid projects across the country under the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
The meters offer customers an unprecedented view of their personal electricity use. A website, www.myoge.com, provides weekly and daily summaries of power consumption. The site also provides a projection on what a customer's monthly bill will be, based on usage trends. The information can be tracked and compared with average usage and efficient usage. Totals can be compared to average use of other customers in the neighborhood.
"It's a nice tool to have for greater access to information," Alford said. "Without it, customers typically only heard from us when their monthly bill arrived. Now they have the opportunity to see how they are doing during the month, to average their energy use."
Introduction of smart-meter technology has not been universally embraced.
Alford acknowledged instances of public opposition to the meters by customers who viewed them as intrusive and threatening to their health.
At a local public meeting convened in May by state Sen. Jake Files, R-Fort Smith, OG&E officials and John Bethel, executive director of the Arkansas Public Service Commission, answered questions about the program for the 70-plus people concerned about the transition.
An issue of concern involved the inability for customers to opt out of the program and to continue using conventional meters. Files told those present there was no provision for the action under current state law, but advised those present they could petition the state Legislature for a change in its next session.
Files said Thursday he has received no communication of intent to seek a change in the law.
Alford said he believed the meeting helped dispel some unwarranted concerns about the program and believes any opposition to the program has diminished.
However, James Kaelin, a Lavaca resident who has been vocal in his opposition to the OG&E program, persists in his stand.
Kaelin said Thursday the utility company is violating federal laws related to transmission of a radio signal by the meters.
"You cannot legally connect a transmitter to someone's home without their permission," he said. "For the meters to work, they need a transmitter relay on your house."
Kaelin said he has begun billing OG&E $250 per month for the "antenna space" the company installed meter occupies at his residence. He said once the bill reaches $5,000 he intends to file suit for collection.
"OG&E says this is being done for public necessity," Kaelin said. "I am not willing to give up my freedom of choice for their necessity."
He also challenges OG&E statements about the security of the wireless transmission system and Internet connections, rights of privacy and the public health threats posed by the transmissions passing through the meters.
Kaelin maintains a website, stopoge.info, which details his arguments against the system.
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Ark.) at www.swtimes.com Distributed by MCT Information Services
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