Utilities Try to Tame the Backlash Against Smart Meters

As consumers balk, utilities are tacking on surcharges for holdouts
Traditional electric meters sit on a worktable in a Southern California Edison meter service center, where new 'smart' meters are being tested Photograph by David Paul Morris/Bloomberg

For the past decade, the power industry has pitched the benefits of so-called smart meters, promising lower bills and more control over energy use. Lately, though, some consumers have started pushing back, saying the gadgets compromise privacy, raise costs rather than cut them, and threaten health with electromagnetic fields from the radios the meters use to transmit data. The backlash has slowed improvements to the nation’s power grid as some utilities hold off on rollout plans while regulators weigh the potential benefits against the cost of the programs, expected to reach nearly $29 billion nationwide by 2015.

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