High-tech meters can raise electricity bills

BOSTON – Massachusetts electricity consumers, who pay some of the highest taxes in the country, may dig deep into their pockets in the coming years to cover regional power grid upgrades.

Two of the state’s largest utilities — Everton and National Grid — are offering new payments to offset long-term improvements in electricity distribution and metering systems.

The National Grid, which serves Cape Anne in Massachusetts with 1.3 million customers, is offering a four-year $ 487 million plan to replace some 900,000 “smart meters.”

Eversors, which serves nearly 1.4 million consumers in Massachusetts, will require state regulators to sign a five-year, $ 620 million plan to replace hundreds of thousands of obsolete “smart meters” with new equipment.

The utility says that 740,000 meters is at the end of their 20-year lifespan, and replacing it with the same equipment would be a waste of money.

If the company continues to deploy the existing meters on the system, the outdated technology will close itself and its customers in 20 years of life. Jennifer Shilling, vice president of Eversor Grid Modernization, testified to the Department of Regional Resources.

Shilling said the new “advanced measurement infrastructure” will provide the only replacement solution that will ensure that the company can manage its distribution system.

“There are no alternatives to AMI – it is the only measurement solution to efficiently manage and interact with the modern grid,” she wrote.

Smart meters collect real-time data daily or hourly. Utilities now read the counters using radio signals that can be triggered by neighborhood vehicles.

The new meter technology is wireless and records data hourly if not often.

Electric utilities will be allowed to ask for a hike increase to offset the cost of grid modernization, but both companies said the higher cost of metering improvements would require a “increasing” tariff on monthly utility bills.

The companies did not say how much consumers would pay. Rates are finally set by state regulators.

According to Eversource, customers will be allowed to opt out of the new measurement technology if they pay $ 48 and a monthly meter reading to install a new meter.

According to the Consumer Electronics Group of Edison Electric, 5 out of 5 households in the United States are expected to have remote reading meters by the end of this year.

The companies said the latest technology will improve remote meter reading and efficiency, make billing more accurate and reduce costs.

The proposed amendments will be overseen by the State Department of Energy Resources and the Office of the Attorney General. A number of energy and environmental groups have also expressed interest in the proposal.

The Department of Public Utilities is holding a series of live hearings over the next two weeks.

Meanwhile, the plans face opposition from individuals and groups who oppose the spread of wireless technology in terms of health and safety concerns.

The Scientific Alliance writes to the president of education, Nina Anderson, to the DPA:

No further inquiries should be made as to how the taxpayer’s money may be spent to update the judgment without converting the goods to customers, and without the customer’s request. Discrimination charges, ”she wrote.

Christian M. Wade covers Massachusetts State House for Boston Media Group newspapers and websites. Email cwade@cnhinews.com.


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