Landmark Case: Enforced Smart Meters found ‘Unjust and Unreasonable’

Skelton, Taintor & Abbott Wins Landmark Smart Meter Case

On behalf of several Maine residents,  Skelton, Taintor & Abbott secured a landmark decision that will benefit  utility customers throughout the country. Alan Stone, chair of the firm’s energy law group, successfully convinced the Maine Public Utilities Commission (MPUC) to find that it was an unjust and unreasonable practice for Central Maine Power Company (CMP) to refuse to permit residential and small commercial customers to opt-out of CMP’s smart meter program.

Skelton, Taintor & Abbott represented a group of customers in a complaint against CMP, and convinced the MPUC to order CMP to offer customers the option of opting out of the smart meter program and retaining their existing electromagnetic meters. Stone proved that because of unresolved concerns relating to health, privacy and cyber security resulting from the installation of wireless meters on their homes, customers should have a choice concerning the installation of those meters.   CMP argued vigorously that customers should not be allowed to opt out, and the MPUC found that position to be unjust and unreasonable.

The Portland Press Herald has described the decision as a “landmark” case that represents the first time any state had ordered an electric utility to permit customers the choice to opt out of a smart meter program.  The case has been followed by other Public Utilities Commissions and utility experts around the country, and will serve as precedent for others in the determination of how to resolve what has become a growing debate about customer choice and smart meters.

Alan Stone is also chair of the trial practice group at Skelton, Taintor and Abbott, and has been recognized by Best Lawyers in the area of Energy Law.

[Editor: Hawaii, Maryland and Connecticut have opted out from the Smart Meter ‘rollout’ statewide. Maryland stated that no provisions were made in the program to protect those on life-support systems from having their power turned off, as the Smart Meter program is designed to do.  Connecticut’s Attorney General determined the cost was prohibitive and provided no real benefits.]


“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.”

From Mark Niesse, July 28, 2010

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.



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