Interesting Smart Meter Legal Issue

With any new technology, there are always new and interesting legal issues, and the Smart Grid is no different.

I was reading an article about the Ojai council wanting to ban the smart meters in the city. What I found interesting is the ban part. In my previous reading on this topic, it was usually  about folks wanting to opt-out of the Smart Meter program. The latter issue was essentially settled by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) which recently ruled that customer may opt out, however that they’d have to pay an initial fee of $75, and another $10 per month to keep their old meter.

First issue is whether the City has any legal standing to enforce such a ban in first place, as this is a matter regulated by the State of California through the CPUC. Maybe this is a clear-cut issue one way or the other, but I’m not a lawyer so it’s an open question to me. For example, I know that a city cannot ban a utility from putting transmission wires in, so there are definitely areas where a city has it’s hands tied.

Second issue is the impact on folks that are happy to have the smart meters installed, and are looking forward to having more energy usage information at their fingertips. Not only would they be prevented from having the new meters, but they would likely be forced to pay extra fees for not having something that they actually do want! I can see a lawsuit or a recall campaign if this were to happen!

I’m actually really puzzled by this ban, especially since the CPUC has come up with what seems like a fair compromise…

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