Thursday, Dec. 1, 2011 | 2 a.m.
CARSON CITY – A trio of consumers got an early start in telling the state Public Utilities Commission that the installation of smart meters by Nevada Power Co. would result in higher electric rates for customers and especially hurt the elderly.
“With smart meters, rates will go up,’’ said Rana Goodman in an appearance before the commission Wednesday in Las Vegas.
Goodman, Jonathan Friedrich and Tim Stebbins urged the commission to stop Nevada Power from continuing to install the meters in Las Vegas and give consumers an option to refuse to have the meters in their homes.
A spokeswoman for Nevada Power, who asked not to be identified, denied the rates would be raised. She said a voluntary program would be started in January 2013 in a test to judge the advantages and disadvantages of a time-of-day pricing schedule.
The testimony of the three came in advance of workshop by the PUC on Dec. 6 on the smart meter issues.
Stebbins, a Henderson resident, said he was concerned about the time-of-day pricing that could come with smart meters. He said senior citizens would be hit hard during the summer months in Las Vegas, with the daytime temperatures hitting 100 to 110 degrees and the possibility the rates would be at their highest.
These seniors, who stay in their homes during the afternoons, don’t have a choice in the summer, Stebbins said.
The Nevada Power spokeswoman stressed that customers can volunteer for time-of-day pricing under the present system. And the volunteer program under smart meters doesn’t start for another 13 months.
Friedrich suggested that rates would skyrocket under smart meters, resulting in industry leaving Nevada. This would be contrary to the economic development program of Gov. Brian Sandoval’s to lure business to Nevada, he said.
He said smart meters would have a “negative effect” on what the governor is trying to do.
The PUC opened an investigation in October into smart meters after hearing complaints about health hazards, invasion of privacy and rising rates. Nevada Power has already installed 500,000 meters in the Las Vegas area.
Goodman said smart meter installers are telling residents that if they don’t accept the meter, there will be an additional $30 a month charge to continue the present system.
The spokeswoman for Nevada Power said that is not the policy of the company. There is no plan now to increase the charge if the meter is not installed, she said. At present, ratepayers don’t have an option not to accept the smart meters.