Working to dispel myths, representatives of Florida Power & Light Co. told members of the Siesta Key Association May 3 that the new Smartmeters the company is installing throughout its territory do not transmit personal information.
Steve Anderson, a manager of the project, told the approximately 15 people in the audience that one of the common myths about the meters “is that we’re going to know when you’re home and when you cook toast,” for example. “That is not true,” he added.
He compared a Smartmeter to a scale which shows a person’s weight, but not what the person consumed to get to that weight.”
The Smartmeters have been designed to give customers a better way of tracking their energy usage, Anderson explained. An FPL customer will be able to go online and check his home’s power usage by the day, week or hour, Anderson added. However, he explained, “it won’t be real time. It’ll be the day before’s time.”
A customer will be able to calculate monthly bills with considerable reliability, Anderson added.
The meters also will transmit signals when the power is out, saving customers from having to call FPL to report outages, he said.
Without Smartmeters, Anderson said, “we didn’t know you were out of power until you called. … Your meter will be basically the phone call.”
FPL plans to have Smartmeters installed for all of its 4.6 million customers by 2013, he said, noting that the equipment is being assembled “right down the street” in Bradenton.
The utility company already is installing Smartmeters in Punta Gorda, Anderson said. Plans call for the installation to begin in Sarasota County in November.
A customer will be notified by a postcard left at the residence before a crew arrives to begin the installation, he added. Then, customers will receive notices by mail once their Smartmeters are active.
Those notices, he said, will give customers their account information so they can begin looking at their energy usage online.
Additionally, he said, “a meter reader will come onto your property a few times to validate the readings.”
Anderson pointed out that customers also had raised concerns about the radio frequency used in the Smartmeters.
“We’ve done hundreds of tests and independent studies,” he said, to demonstrate the safety of the equipment. The radio frequency of the Smartmeters, he added, “is hundreds and hundreds of times below the (Federal Communications Commission’s) limits.”
A cell phone user is exposed to a far higher radio frequency, he added.
In response to a question about whether FPL would use the Smartmeters to adjust its billing to reflect peak and off-peak usage, Anderson said, “There are no plans to implement any price tiering.”
Rae Dowling, FPL’s area manager for external affairs, based in Sarasota, pointed out, “We do offer residential time of use (pricing) … but it’s not part of this.”
“We’re a regulated utility,” Anderson added. If FPL wanted to move to a billing system reflecting peak and off-peak usage for all its customers, regardless of whether the customer requested it, public hearings and state approval would be necessary.
Dowling added, “Our standard, regular 2 o’clock in the afternoon rate for electricity … is lower than the off-peak rates that California (customers are) paying today.”
Asked how long it will take to install a Smartmeter at a home, Anderson said, “Less than a minute,” unless the crew finds a problem that necessitates extra work.
When SKA Director Joe Volpe asked about the potential for an energy surge during the installation, with possible damage to appliances, Anderson said that someone with each crew would knock on the door of a home before the meter change-out began, to give the resident the opportunity to turn off appliances and computer equipment.
Still, Anderson said, if for some reason the installation resulted in damage to electrically powered equipment in a person’s home, FPL would cover the cost of replacing the equipment.
Anyone wishing more information about the program may go online to www.FPL.com/EnergySmart.