Will we be “pre-paying” for energy in the very near future?

Imagine being able to check to see if you turned the stove off from anywhere in the world. How about being able to remotely turn the air conditioning on in your home an hour before you arrive? How about managing your home’s energy uses in “real time”? If your utility company upgrades your residence with a smart meter, you will be able to do all those things.

In California, San Diego Gas & Electric Co. is already getting ready to replace 1.4 million old electric meters with new digital “smart meters.” The roll out will continue until 2011.

According to an article appearing in The North Country Times, “TECH: ‘Smart meters’ coming to Escondido,” customers with smart meters will be able to “hook up their appliances in a local network and control them through the Internet.”

But there is a downfall and potential for abuse. According to the article and to smart meter advocate Michael Shames, executive director of the San Diego-based Utility Consumers’ Action Network, energy companies can use the smart meters to set different rates for energy usage throughout the day. They could also possibly “bill you in advance” for your “estimated” energy usage, or turn off your power the minute your bill is late.

Also more on the “Prepayment Systems” from the Actaris Website (makers of Smart Meters): “Actaris offers a whole range of prepayment metering options, designed for residential users. These systems generate advance cash flow for utilities, eliminate old and prevent new customer debt, reduce fraud risk and the costs of meter reading and billing. Prepayment metering eliminates the need for utility disconnections because their customers are responsible for the state of the supply connection. They have full control over their accounts while utility revenue is safe-guarded. The systems are designed with customer control and utility cash flow in mind, balancing customer use and electricity payment. “

Still, the smart meters could earn consumer possible rebates if they cut their usage during peak times. Time will tell if smart meters will be a benefit or a detriment to consumers.

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