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Brandon Customers Not Sold On 'Smart Meters'

April 26, 2012, 9:55 PM by Brady Mallory

Brandon Customers Not Sold On 'Smart Meters'
SIOUX FALLS, SD -

Some people in Brandon think smart meters are not such a smart idea. 

Rather than a person reading your meters, a smart meter reads your electricity automatically and shows how much electricity you use per hour.  It transmits the information back to the company.

Some customers worry about privacy and are angry about how the smart meters were installed.

"I left in the morning, and I came back and found all my clocks were blinking," Karen Sohl said.

Sohl thought she had found the clues to a simple power outage. Then she found out she had a brand new smart meter that was installed while she was not home.

"This concerns me in that I didn't know it was going to happen," Sohl said.

Sohl says she did not receive any type of official notices in the mail.

"No scheduling.  Nothing.  The fact someone could drop by my house and do whatever they want on the outside of my house bothers me for security reasons," Sohl said.

In order for the smart meter to be installed, her power had to be turned off.

"They have no idea if somebody is inside that could be on a critical life support system.  No idea if the electronics could be damaged without the homeowner being advised that the electricity was going to be turned off," Charlie Cross, Sohl's neighbor, said.

Sioux Valley Energy spokesperson Carrie Law said the company has not kept customers in the dark because notices about smart meters have been included in monthly magazine-style newsletters.  Cross and Sohl said the information is hard to find, and they usually just throw the magazines away.  According to Law, the smart meter upgrade has been in the works for a few years; she says an official notice was included in an electricity bill sent out a year ago.  

"We also hold district meetings throughout the year.  One we did hold recently was in Brandon where we discussed the installation project," Law said.

Law said customers have had an older version of smart meters for a while.  The only difference is this update is interactive and allows customers to see their hourly and monthly electricity usage online.

A FBI report, highlighted on krebsonsecurity.com, points out smart meters can be hacked.

"We have a process in place to not allow that to happen," Law said.

A cyber-security plan was filed with the Department of Energy to keep private information private.  Smart meters will soon be the standard, but some people are resisting.

"I, as a customer, should have the decision to opt out as to what equipment transmits personal data that operates on my house," Cross said.

These installations take less than five minutes, and according to Law, Sioux Valley Energy does not just turn off the power on customers with disabilities.  If they are on a life support system, they can get on a list to minimize interruptions.

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