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Utilities nationwide see growing 'smart meter' opposition

MONTPELIER, Vt. — Worries about health effects, privacy and cost are fueling growing opposition to wireless, digital "smart meters" that utilities around the country are installing at homes and businesses and touting as key energy conservation and grid reliability tools.

Vermont appears poised to take an unusually aggressive stance. While several states have allowed utilities to charge a fee to customers who want to opt out of smart meters, Vermont's governor is expected soon to sign legislation that would allow customers to say no without paying anything extra, at least until more studies are completed on the real costs of not deploying the meters.

"They're the ones who came up with this," Sen. Robert Hartwell, D-Bennington and a leading supporter of the free opt-out, said in an interview. "The utilities didn't really care what the ratepayers thought. So since they're the ones who are trying to impose the new system, we think they're the ones who should absorb the costs."

Dorothy Schnure, spokeswoman for Vermont's Green Mountain Power Corp., said a smart grid will enable utilities to operate in a more efficient and environmentally friendly manner. She predicted most customers would be eager to see the change.

Under Vermont's law, the costs of customers opting out — mainly having to send a meter reader to their home or business, will be spread across all customers, rather than being paid just by those who opt out.


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