Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2011 | 2:44 p.m.
CARSON CITY – After hearing complaints from consumers in Las Vegas and Reno, the state Public Utilities Commission is poised to open an investigation into the installation of smart meters that measure the use of electricity in homes and businesses.
Commissioner Rebecca Wagner said the consumer sessions this month in the two cities raised a number of issues, including health fears and security of the meters. Wagner said she wanted to know the “opt out” provisions available to those who decline the meters.
NV Energy has been installing the meters since last year in the Las Vegas area and Sierra Pacific Power Co. will start in December in Northern Nevada.
Jennifer Schuricht, spokeswoman for NV Energy, said the company has installed more than 500,000 meters in Southern Nevada. She said NV Energy and Sierra Pacific hope to have all customers hooked up by December 2012.
Daniel Jacobsen, technical staff manager of the state Bureau of Consumer Protection, said it has encouraged the PUC to open a docket so consumers and the utilities could outline their views.
The PUC officially delayed a decision Wednesday until Oct. 28 on starting the investigation to give Commissioner David Noble a chance to read the transcripts of the hearings, where consumers voiced their concerns.
At a PUC meeting Wednesday in Las Vegas, resident Michael Hazard said installing the meters wasn't about bringing jobs to Nevada or saving energy. He said he was opposed to the smart meters and told the commission there should be an option to reject the units.
He called it “discriminatory to low-income people,” and added, “they (the smart meters) are injurious to citizens.”
Resident Penny Hess claimed the smart meters affect the health of homeowners and are a fire hazard. She said two counties in California and one in Maryland have decided not to have them installed. Hess added that somebody could hack into them.
NV Energy received a $138 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to help with the $300 million project. The smart meters will permit customers to view next-day energy use information and the time of day the power is used.
NV Energy says the smart meters have undergone three tests and are accurate.
Until the system is installed, the PUC said there will be no change in rates. It said it will look closely at the costs of the utility to see if there have been savings. “At this point, rates will be examined and appropriate adjustments made,” the PUC said.
CORRECTION: NV Energy received a $138 million grant, not a $1.38 million grant, from the U.S. Department of Energy. | (October 12, 2011)