© 2024 WOSU Public Media
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Columbus Suburb Puts Hold On Electric "Smart Meters."

So far, American Electric Power has installed more than 100-thousand so called "Smart Meters" in Ohio. The digital wireless meters allow two-way communication between a resident's home and the utility and are part of a plan to implement a new electrical grid that backers say is more reliable and more responsive. But, plans to install the new meters in Westerville have been put on hold. WOSU's Tom Borgerding reports.

Westerville is among a group of cities that operates its own electric division. So when the federal government offered the city a 4-point-3 million dollar stimulus grant to defray new electric meter installation costs council drew up legislation and scheduled public hearings. Last week, the city council voted 5 to 2 to pull the proposal after receiving citizen complaints ranging from doubts about energy cost savings to potential theft of personal information. Gary Carpenter of Westerville complained about "time of use" electricity rates that would be possible with the new smart meters. The rate structure might offer lower electricity rates when overall demand on power plants is lowest for instance, during overnight hours or during some week-end periods. Carpenter says the electric division would overstep its bounds if it offered such rates.

"You might as well set up a system where I have to pay six dollars a gallon for all the gas that I use if I drive over a hundred miles. We don't do that in America. We have freedoms. Its not your job to tell me how to use electricity." Another opponent of the new two way electric metering system suspects the motivation of utilities and the government in promoting the " smart grid."

"I'm Katra Hinterschied and I'm against the smart meters. You know alot of this, this whole project stems from the whole global warming lie...you know

In all, 30 people offered comments ..17 opposed smart meters while 13 spoke in favor. American Electric Power has heard complaints similar to those raised in Westerville. Spokeswoman Terri Flora says the utility has people working in Columbus to allay customer fears.

"I know the concerns have been on safety and security and A-E-P is in fact establishing one of the first ever cyber-security operation centers here in Columbus with Lockheed-Martin that's going to monitor 24/7 anything that's one that system and protect that system."

Its uncertain what Westerville will do. Areas adjacent to the city, Blendon Township and Gahanna already have the new "smart meters." American Electric Power spokeswoman Terri Flora says eventually everyone will have to get them. There is no "opt-out" option.

"It isn't an opt-out of the meters. The meters are standard. And they will continue. Its like an upgrade of any system in their home, computers all they way down to the meter. Q) How do you read Westerville's vote from the utility's point? Is it anti technology? Is it a privacy concern? Is it anti government concerns about council telling people what to do? How do you read it? A: Flora) Well, I don't know. I think its all the above. There's just concern about a new technology.

Tom Borgerding WOSU News