PORTLAND, Ore. — Pacific Power will offer a new option to reduce the fees that come along with opting out of its new smart meters in favor of the traditional, hand-read meters, the company announced in a statement on Tuesday.
“We’ve heard from customers that the fee to opt out of a smart meter is burdensome, and we have continued to look for new options,” said Pacific Power Vice President of Regulation, Etta Lockey. “This has been a collaborative process with the PUC and the Citizens’ Utility Board, and we are pleased to offer this new option to customers.”
While the company's statement makes no direct reference to Josephine County, the ordinance recently adopted by the County continues to represent codified resistance to Pacific Power's smart meters that hasn't manifested elsewhere in the region.
Both Josephine County and Pacific Power have made in clear that, one way or another, customers need to keep up with their bills — the disagreement being over what constitutes economic "hardship" for which the company should be forced to grant relief.
According to Pacific Power, the Equal Payment Plan Opt-out option will be available beginning March 13, and reduces opt-out fees from $36 per month to $9 by reducing the number of manual meter readings to three times per year — or $36 per reading, spread across 12 billing months.
"It also allows customers to pay a level or equal monthly amount based on a historical average of their previous bills," Pacific Power said.
The existing opt-out plan with monthly readings and fees will still be available, with bills based on monthly usage instead of the average rate offered in the new Equal Payment plan.
Customers will have to call the company to select the new option at 1-866-869-8520. Residential customers with "non-standard meters" are eligible to participate.
"Residential customers with net meters, time of use meters or demand registers would not qualify because it is necessary for the company to obtain routine meter reads to bill customers under those circumstances accurately," Pacific Power said.
The utility said that its upgrade of 590,000 customers to smart meters began in January of 2018, with more than two-thirds of Pacific Power's customers in Oregon already completed.