'Smart' Meters by What Authority?

Who’s In Charge Here?

This from our colleague Kiku Lani, who reports:

To help me with some research on a project I’m working on, I asked the Dept. of Energy’s media relations to clarify what rights consumers have to opt out of smart meters, and what role the federal government has, if any, in mandating them. Here are responses (in italics) to my questions:

1. What advice and recommendations does the DOE have to consumers who want to refuse or opt out of a wireless smart meter that their utility company says is mandatory? Do they have the right to opt out? If so, do you know a law or regulation that allows for this?

The States through their public utility commission or similar state regulatory body regulate electric utilities at the retail level, so we would recommend that consumers that want to opt out contact their State public utility commission. Any utility requirement for mandatory adoption of smart meters would be a State matter.

2. Has the DOE (or Congress or both) made it mandatory for consumers to adopt wireless smart meters or is the DOE not setting policy regarding federal mandates, and instead leaving that up to each state and/or utility?

No. The Federal government, including DOE, does not have any role in regulating the installation of smart meters, nor does it have a policy about the mandatory adoption of smart meters.

What specific regulations or sections of law can I find or look up that explains this division of power or responsibility?

The Federal Power Act and amendments is the primary source that delineates the Federal responsibilities.

3. One utility making the headlines in particular, CMP in Maine, is saying that it could lose its DOE grant if they allow consumers to opt out. Is this correct? Or would the DOE grants allow for exceptions (opt outs)?

DOE awards a grant, based on a specific scope of work and the functionality that would be achieved with the grant. This includes the Smart Grid Investment Grants made under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. If a recipient’s scope of work changes, those changes would be subject to DOE’s review and approval.