Last month, a couple sued Oncor claiming that their new smart meter is over charging them. This led Oncor to hold a town hall style meeting over the smart meter rollout and many customers were anxious, wanting their rollout put on hold. This lawsuit follows one from Bakersfield, CA claiming the same thing; that smart meters were overcharging them. The Bakersfield utility, PG&E, hired an independent consultant to review if the smart meters are overcharging. Both of these incidents point to a bumpy road ahead for smart meters rollout than first expected.
Utilities are starting to realize that giving consumers data about their usage is not the same as consumers understanding how the use the data. To get ahead of this, some companies are forming a new smart meter consumer collaborative, which will “research consumers’ concerns and develop a message to engage the consumer to understand the benefits of the smart grid.” They hope that this group can get more consumers to understand the value of the smart meter and how it can affect their relationship with electricity. Moreover, important smart meter company, IBM, argues that more careful planning is needed when rolling out the new meters. In the end, for smart meters to be successful, consumers need to buy in on their value. The initiatives mentioned here hope to help address this issue.