Isaac Orr testifies on bill requiring customers to opt in to smart meters

Yesterday, American Experiment policy fellow Isaac Orr testified on a bill that would require customers to opt-in to having their current meters replaced with “smart meters” with no penalties if they decide not to opt into the new program.

You can watch the testimony and read his testimony below.

Mr. Chair and members of the Committee,

My name is Isaac Orr, and I am a policy fellow specializing in energy and environmental policy at Center of the American Experiment.

I’d like to thank Senator Lucero for inviting me to testify today on Senate File 4373, which would require electric utilities to obtain written consent before installing smart meter gateway devices on Minnesota homes and businesses.

I have received dozens of emails and calls from our readers and supporters who are concerned about Xcel Energy’s smart meter rollout. It is easily the issue I hear the most about from people.

Xcel Energy claims very few people opt out of its smart meter program, but this is likely because of the extra charge it is leveling on its captive ratepayers.

Many of our supporters are senior citizens, and they feel like the $15 in additional fees for opting out are punitive and designed to coerce them into signing up for the program, especially because they are already struggling to keep up with Xcel’s rising rates. In their view, coercion is not consent.

They are also concerned about time-of-use rates and the possibility that these devices will be used to ration electricity consumption during periods of high demand and low wind and solar output in the future. Time-of-use rates are already prevalent in California, causing rates for some customers to jump from 30 cents per kWh to 50 cents per kWh, which is 3.4 times higher than the current average residential rates in Minnesota.

This bill ensures that people who wish to have a smart meter and participate in these programs have the option to do so while preventing utilities from coercing residents into a smart meter they would prefer not to have.

Thank you, and have a great day.