Florida Power & Light Co. customers who have refused to allow their old meter to be changed out to a smart meter should pay extra fees slightly lower than what FPL is seeking, regulatory staff is recommending.
The Florida Public Service Commission is scheduled Tuesday to hear Juno Beach-based FPL’s request for permission to bill customers who opt out of the now-standard smart meters a $105 enrollment fee and a $16 a month service charge.
The meeting which starts at 9:15 can be viewed live online at floridapsc.com. Click on “Watch live broadcast.”
The PSC staff is recommending that FPL reduce the proposed enrollment fee to $95 and the monthly charge to $13. The staff said the reductions could be made by extending the recovery period for the up-front system and communication costs from three years to five, by reducing the number of customer care employees from four to one after two years, and eliminating a lead meter reading position in two years.
FPL completed the $800 million installation of 4.5 million smart meters for residential and small business customers in its 35-county territory in April 2013. Roughly 36,000 customers have either refused to allow the company access to install a smart meter, or asked to be on a postponement list.
Smart meters are equipped with a two-way radio transmitter that transmit information about usage to an access point allowing meters to be read remotely. Customers can view their energy consumption online by the month, day or hour.
While utilities tout the benefits of smart meters, some customers have voiced concerns about privacy, cyber security and safety and possible adverse health effects associated with the radio waves the wireless meters emit.
Diane Goldberg of Port St. Lucie is one of 35 customers who have written the PSC asking that FPL not be allowed to charge extra fees to those who do not want a smart meter. Thursday she said that no studies have been done on the effects of non-thermal radiation, such as that emitted by smart meters, over long periods of time.
“It is not ethical to ask customers who wish to opt-out of the smart meter grid to pay to safeguard their health,” Goldberg said.
In 2011 the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer classified radio frequency electromagnetic fields such as those emitted by cellular phones, microwaves and smart meters as possibly carcinogenic to humans.
The PSC has said its authority does not extend to health issues related to meters. Smart meters are certified for compliance with radio frequency emission standards by the Federal Communications Commission, and the FCC has deemed that meters in compliance with the standards do not have adverse health impacts.
Goldberg also said she should receive a credit for not being part of the smart meter program, and that credit should be put toward the cost of reading her meter.