Get smart

Smart meter recently installed outside a building in Seaside. 

For smart meters, it’s not how much you pay if you want one. It’s how much you pay if you don’t.

Alisa Dunlap, business manager for Pacific Power, addressed concerns from residents as the power company replaces customers electric meters with digital meters that communicate with Pacific Power through a wireless network. “We’ll be upgrading all of the meters in the county,” Dunlap said.

The change comes to keep costs down in the future and support a more energy-efficient grid, Dunlap said. Smart meters will help the power company better manage the demand for renewable resources.

Meters send basic communication about customer usage, she said.

Pacific Power will notify customers by postcard and phone of their scheduled changeover date. There is no charge for replacement and during installation, power will be lost for less than 5 minutes.

Most installations are done in 30 seconds, she added.

The installation effort began in Oregon in early 2018 in the Willamette Valley; the first replacements in Clatsop County began Feb. 11. “You may have installers around already. They’re jumping around a little bit.”

Dunlap said Pacific Power has scheduled complete installation in the county by the end of May. “By fall, we’ll have completed all of our installations across the state.”

Is opt-out cost fair?

While there’s no cost for installation, residents objected to terms of the opt-out clause in the contract — a clause that could cost $36 a month. “That’s a little bit less than my whole bill,” Joyce Hunt said.

“I feel like we’re getting gouged by the fee,” Dave Eilenberger of Seaside said.

He also showed concern for possible impacts of radio frequencies and health risk.

Frank Erickson, a retired radiologist, told the City Council he had “see-sawed” whether to opt out or opt in for the smart meter installation. “I’m still rethinking."

The health effects have been ping-ponging over the past 20 years without a clear consensus, he said, with a small but growing body showing health care risks.

“What bothers me more is paying that $36 a month to make up for costs they have because they don’t have 100 percent compliance,” Erickson said. “I think they should address that to see if they can do something more reasonable.”

Councilor Seth Morrisey called the opt-out fee “absolutely ridiculous. You’re basically charging a tax on people for something they actually have.”

Dunlap said the fee is determined by the cost of bringing service to opt-out customers. “The utility commission does not allow us to have one customer’s decision push costs on to another,’ she said.

Morrisey asked for Pacific Power to work to lower that fee.

“I hear you, I hear you and I will certainly continue to have our regulatory folks look at that,” Dunlap said.

 

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