Over the past couple of years, the hype around the coming smart grid and how it would help lower energy consumption, provide better electrical service and incorporate renewable energy sources into the nation’s electrical grid, reached a fever pitch. But once the rubber started hitting the road, there were hiccups.
They started in Bakersfield, Calif., where a resident filed a lawsuit against utility provider Pacific Gas & Electric, claiming that the new meters installed on his home had tripled his power bill. PG&E countered that the higher rates were due to a hot summer and a longer-than-average billing cycle, but the seed of doubt had already been planted and consumer distrust of smart meters—which allow two-way communication between a utility provider and ratepayers and are a key element of the smart grid concept—started to grow. And in Texas last week, discontent with the utility Oncor, which had been rolling out smart meters in a number of cities, grew into an organized consumer group called Smart UR Citizens. These consumers are also crying foul, claiming the new smart meters leading to inflated rates.