Hawaii and Maryland reject stupid meters

By Mark Niesse

July 28, 2010 – 11:02 AM

HONOLULU (AP) – Hawaii regulators have rejected plans for a broad expansion of smart grid electric technology that would have been paid for by residents and businesses.
Hawaiian Electric Co., the state’s primary utility, had envisioned a $115 million smart grid project reaching 451,000 locations on Oahu, Maui and the Big Island. But the utility’s proposal fell apart when the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission on Monday denied a request for expanded testing of the technology on Oahu.
The “smart grid” concept relies on installing new electric meters that can wirelessly communicate with the utility, allowing it to better distribute power and handle additional renewable energy.
“Our office was concerned that the investment would be made but ratepayers wouldn’t see the benefits,” said Dean Nishina, executive director for the state Division of Consumer Advocacy.
The utility should create a comprehensive plan for upgrading the electric grid before it makes another attempt to use ratepayer money to put advanced electric meters in homes and businesses, according to the PUC’s ruling.
“They want to see the smart grid roadmap first,” said Peter Rosegg, spokesman for Hawaiian Electric. “It’s not a big setback. … They’re saying, ‘Let’s do it in a more deliberative manner.'”
Opponents of Hawaiian Electric’s smart grid proposal said they’re not convinced the state should invest so much money on smart grid technology when other options may be more practical.
“Shouldn’t we start by asking, ‘What are the best choices, how much do they all cost?’ instead of, ‘Here’s the one we really like and here’s everything good about it?'” said Mark Duda, president of the Hawaii Solar Energy Association.
Hawaii leaders could consider ways to use more decentralized power, such as rooftop solar panels, before the state spends on a costly smart grid system controlled by the electric utility, said Henry Curtis of the environmental group Life of the Land.


Moreover, we are persuaded that some of the Company’s most vulnerable residential customers, such as low-income households, elderly customers, customers with medical needs for electricity that cannot be shifted to off-peak hours, or other customers who are “stay at home” are less likely to realize the potential benefits of TOU pricing than would the “average” residential customer….

Therefore, we invite BGE to submit an alternative proposal that mitigates and more fairly allocates between the Company and its customers the risk that the reality of this project will not reflect the projections BGE has provided to this Commission. We also expect any alternative proposal to include a revised business case that addresses both opt-in and opt-out TOU scenarios as well as the detailed customer education plan we have outlined above.

Elizabeth Kelley, MHA
Director, Electromagnetic Safety Alliance, Inc.
Co-Coordinator, Arizonans for Safer Utility Infrastructure

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