Pacific Power came to Seaside Tuesday to present a smart meter technology workshop, held at Seaside Brewing Co. Along with demonstrations of the new technology, representatives offered customers some hope of a reduction in the monthly fee charged to opt out of meter replacement.
Pacific Power's smart meter installation program began in Oregon in early 2018 in the Willamette Valley; the first replacements in Clatsop County began Feb. 11.
The project, which will upgrade 24,000 meters across Clatsop County by fall, is part of the company’s statewide effort to make a more resilient power grid better suited to adapt to renewable energies.
At both February Seaside City Council and Clatsop County Commission meetings, residents objected to the $36 a month opt-out fee charged to customers who choose not to replace their meters.
The fee is determined by the cost of bringing service to opt-out customers.
An additional $137 one-time opt-out charge was dropped last August, replaced with the proposed monthly fee. That cost is based on “going out and reading one meter,” regulatory manager Melissa Nottingham of the Oregon Energy Fund Nottingham said at Tuesday's workshop. “Then we average that over all the meter readings.”
Nottingham said she was working with the Oregon Public Utility Commission “right now” to lower the financial burden of the opt-out fee.
After the power company's system is fully installed and the network is running, that cost will be reevaluated, Nottingham added. “We’re going to look at it and say, 'Is that $36-a-month still the cost to read the meter, or is it something else?’”
Other cost-savings for customers could come with longer periods between home meter readings, necessitating fewer visits. “We don’t want to have too long a period between estimates, because people could get hit with a big ‘catch-up’ bill,” Nottingham said. “So we’re looking at maybe once a quarter.”