According to currently available data, Texas has invested more than $2.5 billion installing smart meters across the state since 2007. But a report by the Texas Tribune claims the state has not helped low-income customers take full advantage of the new metering technology.
It is estimated Texas utilities have deployed more than seven million smart meters. Most consumers are able to check their power consumption information online. There is a day or two lag time in the data displayed. Approximately 12,000 meters are connected to a HAN device that lets consumers track data in real time.
In 2009, Texas state regulators ordered Oncor, CenterPoint, and AEP Texas to establish a $18.5 million fund to provide low-income residents home and business area networks (HAN) to help utilize the smart meters. (CenterPoint contributed $7.5 million, Oncor $10 million, and AEP $1 million.) To date, though, the money has not been used. Consumer advocates charge that this has led to low-income families having to pay for smart meters they can’t use to full potential.
There are numerous reasons for the delay. First, the power companies and advocates do not agree on which consumers should qualify for the program. There is also disagreement over what technology should be utilized, a concern over privacy and how it would best be protected.
Texas officials claim taking more time now will result in fewer problems later. Carol Biedrzycki, Texas Ratepayers’ Organization to Save Energy executive director told the Texas Tribune, “This is a lot of money, and it should be used by now.”
A report by the South-Central Partnership for Energy Efficiency as a Resource (SPEER) concluded that the state’s top utilities have reduced the amount they’re spending on smart grid education. Doug Lewin, the organization’s executive director noted to the newspaper, “Lots of people in other states would be thrilled to have what we have here. But there is definitely a potential for going off the rails, and losing track. It’s almost like you’ve got the iTunes and the Google Play store but you don’t have any apps.”