Monday, Dec. 12, 2011 | 6:33 p.m.
The state Public Utilities Commission directed NV Energy to look at allowing customers to opt out of its controversial smart meter program.
The commission told the utility Monday to submit information on the cost of the present system compared to the smart meters and other alternatives.
The commission opened an investigation into the smart meters after receiving complaints, including that the units are a health hazards and might increase the cost to consumers in ensuing years.
The commission is telling NV Energy to give a breakdown and cost comparison for having meters read by a utility employee every month; by the employee on a quarterly basis with the remaining months by the customer, including a semi-annual audit or by an NV Energy employee, and on a semi-annual basis with the remaining months read by the consumer.
The commission wants to know if the utility has an inventory of old meters or will it have to purchase new ones for customers who opt out of the program.
The utility has installed 500,000 meters in the Las Vegas area. And Sierra Pacific Power Co., NV Energy's sister company in Northern Nevada, will start installation next month in the Reno-Sparks area.
The smart meter can be read at the offices of the utility and would give consumers an idea of the time they are using the most power. It could lead to price of day bills.
The commission wants NV Energy to study the "proposed upfront and monthly fees/rates to be paid by ratepayers under each of the opt-out alternatives."
The utility must furnish this information by Dec. 28 and consumers will be able to file their comments by Jan. 13.
A second PUC workshop will be held Jan. 18 in Las Vegas.