Should I opt out of Xcel Energy’s “smart meter?”

I have received dozens of calls and emails from our supporters asking whether they should allow Xcel Energy to swap out the electric meters on their homes for a new “smart meter.”

This piece will hopefully be a resource for those who are considering whether to opt out of the program.

What is Xcel Energy doing?

Xcel is proposing to swap out perfectly good radio remote readers with new “smart” meters or analog readers that require someone to come to your property to read the meter. Xcel will then charge an upfront fee for the analog replacement and an extra $15 per month, for a total of $180 annually.

The $180 fee is meant to “nudge” people into accepting a smart meter.

Xcel wants to install smart meters on our homes and businesses so they can increase the cost of electricity during periods of high demand using Time-of-use rates and, someday, control power flows to their customers. Xcel locked thousands of Colorado customers who participate in the voluntary AC Rewards program out of their thermostats during an emergency event, and the smart meters will eventually do the same in Minnesota.

Participation in programs like AC Rewards will be voluntary at first, but like the $180 fee, I predict the extra costs associated with not allowing the utility to control your power will eventually become cost-prohibitive, especially for low-income families and businesses. 

Should I get a smart meter?

This is a judgment call people will have to make for themselves. Participation in Time-of-use rates will be voluntary at first, so there is not an imminent increase in prices, but I believe we will eventually trend toward California’s price swings that essentially double from 5 pm to 8 pm.

For what it’s worth, I allowed Xcel to put a smart meter on my property, which I don’t love, but I also don’t want to pay the additional $180 per year to have an analog dial.