Get Smart

MLGW’s plan for “smart meters” stirs controversy.

| July 18, 2013
MLGW’s smart meters will be installed at some homes this fall.
MLGW’s smart meters will be installed at some homes this fall.

At the last couple of town hall meetings about MLGW's new "smart meters," tempers have flared, words have been exchanged, and at one meeting, city councilman Myron Lowery was threatened with a fist to the face.

MLGW plans to install 60,000 smart meters, which identify energy consumption in a more detailed manner than conventional meters, during the first phase of its project this fall. The utility will install the meters in all Memphis and Shelby County residences and businesses by 2020.

Some council members and customers oppose smart meters due to fear of increases in utility bills, health hazards from radiation, and concerns over hacking. At one meeting in June, a man threatened to punch Lowery when the councilman got into a heated debate with the man's wife over the meters. Councilman Joe Brown even likened the meters to communism.

"I don't know what in the world communism would have to do with them. That's very silly," said MLGW president Jerry Collins. "If you have a computer at home, if you have a telephone, if you have wi-fi, there's a greater chance that you're going to be hacked than if you have a smart meter. That smart meter has encrypted computer chips in it that make it very difficult to hack."

Councilwoman Janis Fullilove has been spearheading the town hall meetings.

"There's so much controversy surrounding these meters, whether or not they actually lower the cost of your utility bill. I've heard from many people who have these smart meters, that their utility cost is going up," Fullilove said.

MLGW claims smart meters will actually help customers lower their bills. The meters measure a location's energy consumption every 15 minutes. Customers will be able to access this information online or by contacting MLGW's call center.

"It gives a homeowner more information than they've ever had about their energy use," Collins said. "By having that information, they can make decisions on how to better use their energy for the purposes of saving money."

The council will vote August 6th on the approval of a $10 million contract for MLGW to install smart meters throughout the remainder of the year and into 2014.

For the first phase of installation, MLGW is targeting parts of Midtown, downtown, Germantown, Bartlett, and Collierville. Residences and businesses in these areas can opt out of having them installed. However, if a customer in one of the targeted areas has committed utility theft within the last 24 months, they'll be required to get a smart meter.

There are 11,000 cases of utility theft in Memphis each year. Smart meters would help eliminate this issue, because if anyone tampers with one, MLGW is automatically notified and a representative is sent to that location.

Although some opponents of smart meters have focused on utility costs and privacy issues, many are concerned over the elimination of jobs as a result of smart meter installation. Over the next seven years, around 170 MLGW positions would be eliminated.

"No one would be laid off. We would simply eliminate vacancies as they occur," Collins said. "That reduces the cost of our operations, and keeping utilities as low as possible is certainly a major responsibility that we have."

From 2010 to 2012, 1,000 MLGW customers participated in the Smart Grid Demonstration Project, which involved those customers testing out electric smart meters. Only 5 percent of participants said they wouldn't recommend the smart meters to their friends.

"There really shouldn't be any controversy," Collins said. "There are many other parts of the country that have already implemented smart meters and are taking advantage of all the benefits. We need to get out of the Stone Age and start taking advantage of those benefits as well."


Comments (14)

Showing 1-14 of 14

I have a Smart Meter and it's made us much smarter about our electric use. We also don't have to contend with inflated estimates anymore. In the long run, smart meters will allow MLGW to better control our peak demand, resulting in lower generation requirements (read less global warming causing coal burning) and lower utility costs for smart consumers that choose to schedule energy intensive activities during off peak hours.

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Posted by Scott Banbury on 07/18/2013 at 8:53 AM

Everyone I know throughout the country that has one, are very happy with the results. In some areas they've implemented a system that tells you when the rates are lower - for example, demand is high Mon - Fri during the work day (8AM - 5PM) the utility companies lower their rates after 6PM through 7AM. Instead of doing your laundry during the day, you can save by doing it at night or on weekends when rates are lower.

report 5 likes, 9 dislikes   
Posted by adaisyaday on 07/19/2013 at 11:09 AM

Another CHOICE (right) taken away. Boy do we need to wake up. It's all about CONTROL.
Americans believe everything people at the top, media, etc. tells us. It's a much bigger picture than what we are told.

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Posted by Redeemed on 07/19/2013 at 11:38 AM

what would you say is the villainous underlying scheme here?

Posted by burr.burr.burr on 07/19/2013 at 12:11 PM

Redeemed: Just what is the bigger picture? There is no right or choice being taken away since you can opt out.

I am ready for my smart meter - bring it on!

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Posted by Pamela Cate on 07/19/2013 at 12:15 PM

11,000 cases of utility theft, wonder how many go uncaught? There's your real issue. ... fraud and theft, fraud and theft, it's become the Memphis, nay, the American way.

I'll take one, I hate having to leave my gate unlocked for the meter reader, it's already cost me a lawn mower.

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Posted by CEBorst on 07/19/2013 at 12:27 PM

I want one. I hate MLGW coming into my yard. But idiotic Fullilove is stopping progress for the rest of us.

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Posted by MojoJojo on 07/19/2013 at 2:13 PM


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Posted by Believer on 07/19/2013 at 4:36 PM

Once you get a smart meter, other people can decide if you are using too much electricity. They may agree to turn your electricity off from 2- 4 o'clock on Mondays and Wednesdays. They know what's best for you.

It's like Obamacare. Once the government pays for your healthcare, they will eventually tell you what to eat and how much exercise you need (or you will be punished). Think I'm off base? Just wait and see. You have been groomed to take it.

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Posted by Believer on 07/19/2013 at 4:45 PM

How about MLGW strengthening their infrastructure and then doing up Smart Meters?

Heck, or even improving their customer service or lack thereof.

Or both?

How about it?

If it rains, the power goes out for scads of folks. If it is windy, the power goes out for scads of folks. If you so much as sneeze or clear your throat near a utility pole, you might cause a few folks to go without power.

I'm tired of it and have a feeling that I am not alone in that.

report 5 likes, 0 dislikes   
Posted by merlin on 07/19/2013 at 8:08 PM

"There's so much controversy surrounding these meters, whether or not they actually lower the cost of your utility bill. I've heard from many people who have these smart meters, that they're utility cost is going up," Fullilove said.

Should be "their utility cost." C'mon, Flyer, that's a Commercial Appeal mistake!

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Posted by TennesseeDrew on 07/20/2013 at 8:00 AM

It's amazing to me that while we're discussing cuts for police, firefighters and teachers while raising taxes, there's somehow $10 million from the publicly owned utility company to fix something that isn't broken. There's a surplus of long lasting, highly functional analog meters. So, lets throw them out, and replace them with cheap ones from China that will break every other year and pass the cost on to the customers. This is a rip off scheme!

report 6 likes, 5 dislikes   
Posted by EdHunter on 07/20/2013 at 9:04 AM


What a shortsighted dumb-headed statement. It shows again that people are willing to posts things that they know absolutely nothing about.

First of all, MLGW, while owned by the city, is totally funded by the customers and does not get one penny from the general fund of the city of Memphis. The ten million will come completely from the separate MLGW funds, but, Memphis, being the owner, has to approve it.

Second, by switching to the smart meters, there will be a reduction in employees that will not only make up for the initial expenditure but save millions more in salaries and benefits.

Why buy outdated technology from china when the newest is available? This is especially true when Memphis has one of the lowest utility rates in all of the U. S.. It will not create a hardship on the MLGW customers. Your statement reminds me of the push in sales of analog tv's before the digital age. Yes, one could get brand new analog TV's for next to nothing. But, what happened? Along came digital tv signals and made the analog sets obsolete. No, we are not willing to go down that road.

I would suggest that before you post negatively about something, at least, do a little research to find out how it operates in the first place.

report 6 likes, 6 dislikes   
Posted by oldtimeplayer on 07/20/2013 at 11:18 AM


SmartMeters are for smart people?


DumbMeters are for dumb people?

This is too obvious. I must be missing something here.

Posted by OakTree on 07/21/2013 at 6:00 PM
Showing 1-14 of 14

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