Bill Could Allow Customers to Opt-Out of Using Smart Meters

Just months after Oncor finished installing millions of "Smart Meters" in North Texas, a new bill in Austin could let customers remove the digital devices from their homes.

Oncor finished installing more than 3.2 million advanced meters in North Texas. Jeamy Molina, a spokeswoman for Oncor, said the project started in 2009.

"We started our rollout in 2009 and finished in 2012. And we've been trying to educate our customers ever since," Molina said.

The public education hasn't been easy. From the beginning of the roll out, customers have had concerns. Republican State Sen. John Carona said he's heard plenty of complaints from customers. The issues range from health concerns over the radio-frequency used by the meters, to property rights issues.

"It's mainly people perceiving there is a health issue. And in terms of respecting individual rights,  and the strong feeling people have that they should be able to control what is attached to their home, in this case, the meter, this legislation is in response to that," Carona said.

The complaints prompted Carona to author Senate Bill 241. The bill would allow Texans to opt out of receiving a smart meter for a fee. The measure would also let Texans who already have an advanced meter to have the device taken off for a fee.

"If you choose to opt out, you can do so. Now you have to pay a reasonable cost for doing so, because there is a cost where the meters have already been installed, and there is an ongoing cost to manually continue to read your meter as opposed to it being done electronically, which is one of the features of a smart meter," Carona said.

Carona said he's not sure how much of a fee would be added on to remove the meter, if the bill passes. Carona said that number will be discussed during the legislative process.

Terry Hadley, a spokesman for the Public Utility Commission in Austin told NBC 5 that the commission will discuss a range for the fee starting later on this month when the PUC meets to discuss the issue. Hadley said the PUC is working to come up with opt out plan for customers. Carona said he's aware of the PUC's actions.

"If the Public Utility Commission chooses to act on that issue, and they act in a way that is responsive to the concerns of homeowners, we'd be willing to pull aside the legislation. Otherwise we'll pass legislation to mandate that it be done and that they be able to have that opt out provision," Carona said.

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