In another industry transition to digital technology, BGE will soon phase in new equipment to replace its home and business electric and gas meters.
Starting in late April, in Pasadena, BGE will begin switching from analog to digital technology to operate its gas and electric system with the installation of smart meters. It will take three years to complete the project.
Pasadena was chosen as a central location in the county to start, according to BGE.
In total, 1.3 million analog electric meters will be replaced with digital ones, and 700,000 gas meters will be upgraded by the end of 2014.
Once installed and operating as expected, there won't be a need for meter readers. According to BGE's website, those employees will be retrained for other jobs.
BGE's investment in smart grid technology will cost customers in the future.
The Department of Energy provided a $200 million grant to offset the $482 million total cost of the program, leaving $282,000 not covered by the grant. Customers can expect a rate increase in 2015.
“The rate increase will happen in a few years after we’ve implemented the functions and features [of the smart meter]," said Rhea Lewis, BGE manager of corporate communications.
Lewis couldn't provide an estimated rate percentage increase but said that the amount customers will save in energy costs over time with smart meters will more than cover the meter-related surcharge.
"While BGE will seek to recover additional program costs through rate changes that customers will see on their bills, we believe that customers can expect their savings will be significantly greater than any potential costs," Lewis wrote in an email to Patch.
"Customer savings will come from reduced energy and operating costs as well as the new programs BGE will introduce for customers to help them manage energy use and bills."
Lewis explained that BGE would have to go before the Public Service Commission (PSC), to show that the benefits to smart meters outweigh any potential cost increase to customers. She added that the commission will then make a decision.
A letter describing the switch to meters was sent to customers in March.
There is not an opt-out program now, but Lewis said BGE may consider one. In the meantime, she said, the scheduled installations will begin at the end of the month in Pasadena and will continue as planned.
A public hearing on the opt-out program is scheduled for May 22 at the PSC located at 6 St. Paul St. in Baltimore, according to Lewis. The PSC's website also mentions that there will be a discussion on establishing a surcharge to recover costs at the meeting.
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