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Meter Mayhem

Controversy surrounds MLGW’s smart meters.



Some residents are pushing for the Memphis City Council to pass a resolution to ensure they'll have no problems opting out of having Memphis Light, Gas & Water's (MLGW) smart meters installed at their homes.

The meters provide more detailed information on energy consumption than conventional meters, but some residents have expressed fears the meters amount to government spying. Others worry they'll have higher bills with smart meters or that the meters are a fire hazard.

They're pushing for a city resolution that allows citizens to opt out of receiving the meters without paying an opt-out fee, despite the fact that MLGW president Jerry Collins has said there isn't a fee.

Councilwoman Janis Fullilove, who is sponsoring the resolution, said she has received calls from more than 400 people inquiring about how they can opt out.

"If I took down every name and address of people who call me [about] MLGW, I'd be working 24 hours a day," Fullilove said. "This is an issue that’s affecting a lot of citizens in Memphis. We’re just trying to get information out so that they can understand [that] if you want a meter, that’s fine. If you don’t, you should have the opportunity to opt out without being penalized."

There was a heated debate between council members, Collins, and vice president of customer service Christopher Bieber at a city council committee last week. In dispute: whether or not there's a fee associated with opting out of receiving a meter and if MLGW has already started to install meters at people's homes.

Fullilove said that she's received calls from residents complaining about smart meters being placed at their homes without their consent. Fullilove said citizens informed her that when they contacted MLGW's Customer Care Center about having the meters removed, they were told that there was a fee.

However, Collins said the only Memphians who currently have smart meters are the 1,000 who volunteered for MLGW's Smart Grid Demonstration Project from 2010 to 2012.

"We're not putting in smart meters currently, and the claim that we are is absolutely false," Collins said. "The only people who have smart meters are the ones who got them two-and-a-half years ago."

In August, the city council approved a $10 million contract for MLGW to install 60,000 smart meters between December of this year and June 2014. There will be individual smart meters for electricity, gas, and water. MLGW anticipates installing meters in all Memphis and Shelby County residences and businesses by 2020.

"There are 24,000 homes that will get the first round of smart meters," Collins said. "We sent those homes letters back in June. Out of those 24,000 homes, there are 178 who have opted out."

The council will meet October 15th to vote on the proposed resolution for citizens to be able to opt out of receiving smart meters at no cost.

Collins contends that there's already no fee associated with opting out of receiving a smart meter and that the process to do so is simple.

"One month before it comes time for your house to get a meter, we will send you a letter telling you that you're about to get a meter," Collins said. "It'll tell you if you want to opt out to call 544-MLGW. If you call the number, we'll send you a form for you to fill out and sign and send back to us. That's all that's required."


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