Smart Meters coming to Paris

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PARIS — A representative from Central Maine Power spoke to residents at the Board of Selectmen meeting Monday night about the new Smart Meters and the recent decision by the Public Utilities Commission allowing customers to opt out.

Smart Meters are digital readers that can transmit use data electronically to CMP, which will eliminate the use for human meter readers.

Suzanne Bussiere, customer service adviser for CMP, said meter installation in Paris is expected to begin in June. Meter changers will knock on customers’ doors to let them know they’ll be changing the meter. She said customers can expect to lose power for about 2 minutes while the meters are changed.

Some customers may see higher bills, she said. “The new meters are very, very sensitive,” and they catch every bit of electricity use, whereas the old analog meters are often decades old.

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“They’re mechanical. They get dirty inside there, the dial slows down,” she said. Many small energy users, like the tiny LED lights and digital clocks on electronics and appliances, aren’t picked up by the current meters.

Still, some customers could save money down the road when supply-time rates are offered. The meters can detect when customers use energy, Bussiere said, so customers can opt to pay higher rates during peak hours, such as the afternoon through dinner time, and less for off-peak hours.

She said that a few customers have had disruption issues with wireless routers and DISH Network receivers, but CMP has been able to help them.

The PUC recently ruled that customers can opt out of the Smart Meters for $12 a month and a one-time fee of $40, or people can get the Smart Meters with the transmitters turned off for an extra $10.50 a month and a one-time fee of $20.

Bussiere said that 7,000 customers have asked to opt out, and the company expects that number to grow to 9,000 before the changeover is finished. However, she said, the radio frequency signals emitted by cellphones are more than 12,000 times greater than a Smart Meter.

The meters will also allow CMP to shut off a customer’s power remotely in the case of a flooded basement or similar dangerous situations, but Bussiere said the company won’t use that function during a fire.

Fire Chief Brad Frost questioned why CMP would not shut down electricity remotely during fires, instead of forcing departments to wait for someone from the company to turn off power manually at the fire scene.

Bussiere said she would have to speak to someone in the company, but there was concern that because the remote shutoff only cuts off power at the meter, electricity is still running from the nearest utility pole to the home.

treaves@sunjournal.com

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