Green Building Law Blog

Smarting Over Smart Meters The Sequel--Maryland Rejects Smart Meters

Despite the promise of $200 million Smart Grid stimulus grant to BG&E in 2009 from the Department of Energy, according to

The Public Service Commission of Maryland rejected implementation of “smart grid” metering proposed by Baltimore Gas & Electric (BGE) in June 2010. The commission based the rejection on fears of rate increases and tiered pricing that would increase costs for consumers.

Other people have sued utilities in California and Texas over perceived issues with Smart Metering, notably the objectors said that they were being overcharged for their electrical usage.

Others suspect a more nefarious purpose for the smart meters.  The MasterResource Blog, which bills itself as a "A free-market energy blog" had this objection to the proposed Maryland smart meters:

And last but not least, smart meters are intrusive. Big Environmental Brother lurks behind each smart meter to tell you what to do and when to do it. Civil libertarians take note of this government-dependent machine.

 Are the concerns over smart metering legitimate? Another argument can be made that smart meters are no different than the current electrical system.  With standard meters, electricity is measured by electrical meters, and the electrical utility reads the meters, albeit in the form of a "meter maid". 

 Critics are especially concerned about smart meters' capacity to regulate usage depending on demand--higher prices when demand is high, lower prices when demand is lower, and to regulate the flow of electricity when demand exceeds supply.  But, it can be argued that the utilities do this already, albeit in a cruder form.  For example, when demand exceeds supply, there are brown- and black-outs.  This is simply restricting the flow of electricity on a broader scale. 

As for pricing, if demand exceeds supply, utilities raise electricity prices for everyone.  Rate caps prevent utilities from raising prices in some places, but can this legitimately be considered the "free market" regulating electricity prices? I think not.  It is the government regulating electricity prices.

It strikes me that smart metering is as close as you can get to free market allocation of electricity.  When demand is high, prices increase, when demand is low, prices decrease.  Individuals have the capacity to decrease their bills by using less of the constrained resource. 

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Comments (3) Read through and enter the discussion with the form at the end
Chris Cheatham - July 13, 2010 8:16 AM

Ha! Great point. I'm not sure how smart meters can be considered big brother when you are already buying the electricity. That's like complaining that you pay for cable and the cable company puts a cable box in your home.

Joshua Lehrer - July 13, 2010 2:27 PM

Bring on the smart meter. If I can know when electricity is cheaper, so I can run my dryer, I don't care who knows I'm running my dryer.

What would be even cooler would be if I could set my dish washer to kick on at night when the rates dropped.

Or how about a freezer that runs a defrost cycle (which uses more energy) when it knows electric rates have dropped, and maybe turns the internal temperature up a bit when electricity rates are high.

Bring it on!

Scott McMorrow - January 1, 2011 12:58 PM

Thank you for this posting. I agree that "smart" technology can hep the environment. My opposition (to SMART meters in California) is the wireless aspect. I feel the utility can achieve the same green results using a hardwired solution.

Shari Shapiro, Esq., LEED AP
Suite 300, Liberty View, 457 Haddonfield Road, P.O. Box 5459
Cherry Hill, NJ 08002-2220,