You're already paying for your next meter

March 2, 2009 3:31:23 PM PST
If you check your power bill closely, you will notice there is an extra charge and it will not go away anytime soon. The charge is for new electricity meters. And even those who do not have a new meter yet still have to pay. We told you a few months ago that the smart meters were coming and that you would be paying for it, Now those charges are showing up on the power bills and some customers are not too happy about it.

The electric meter in Tellie Mintz's back yard is the same device that has faithfully recorded her power usage for years. While the meter has not changed, something else has. Her power bill has a brand new charge on it.

"I called the company, the light company, and asked them about it," she said. "And they said this is recovery for new meters here and why are we supposed to have new meters? There is nothing wrong with these."

It turns out nothing is wrong with the old meter, but Mintz and more than two million others will be getting a new "smart" meter in the next few years.

Even though it may take a while for you to get a new meter in your back yard, you'll be paying the new meter fee from now until 2021.

"That don't make sense," said Mintz. "We got low income people here on Social Security, what do you do? We can't take it with us because it belongs to the light company. So what else can we do?"

Like it or not, electricity customers have no choice but to pay for the new meters if their providers decide to pass along the cost. That's because the Public Utility Commission agreed that consumers should pay more than $600 million for the smart meters that CenterPoint will be installing over the next five years.

"It will be paid for over the next 12 years," said Floyd LeBlanc with CenterPoint. "The first two years is a 3.24 cents per month charge that CenterPoint bills retail electric providers."

LeBlanc says the first wave of meters will be installed inside the Loop this year and then move to other areas in the next five years. While it may seem unfair to charge people for a meter they do not have, LeBlanc says the fee showing up now does more than pay for one device. It's paying to build the smart meter infrastructure.

"The cost of building all that equipment, as well as changing every meter in our service territory, takes a while," he said.

These new meters are supposed to save consumers money because they will allow you to more closely monitor your usage. We've done several stories on the kinds of options the meters will give consumers. You can see that for yourself here.

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