Bowie residents and City Council members raised some concerns about Baltimore Gas and Electric's (BGE) installation of smart meters in the city, which began this month and will continue through the fall.
Several residents commented at Tuesday’s Council meeting, all opposed to the smart meter installation. Concerns cited were safety, privacy and long-term cost.
According to a presentation given by BGE Manager of Corporate Communication Rhea Lewis Marshall, the smart meters will communicate with the company and enable them to more easily pinpoint isolated outages in specific homes, and will empower residents to reduce their electricity costs.
Suzanne Sweet, who lives in Bowie’s K section, was uncomfortable with the monitoring.
“It’s like surveillance,” said Sweet. “I reject that it’s legal to do it.”
Sweet also was worried that the meters had not been adequately tested to determine health risks, and the potential for increased consumer costs. Several Council members and residents echoed her concerns.
Perhaps most bothersome to many residents was the lack of notice about installation. Lewis Marshall stated in her presentation that residents should receive a postcard two to four weeks prior to installation, as well as a door hanger shortly before installation would occur.
However, several residents who have already received their smart meters complained they never received a postcard or any kind of advanced notice. These residents include Bowie Mayor Frederick G. Robinson and Mayor Pro Tem Diane Polangin.
Robinson said he came home to find a door hanger proclaiming his new meter was installed, and that was the first he had heard on the matter from BGE. Polangin faced a similar situation at her church, where the smart meter was installed without prior written notification.
Mindy Anderson, who lives in the Whitehall section, said in an email that the first notice she had of smart meter installation was finding a BGE employee in her yard.
“A few days ago I was startled by the man in my backyard banging on the back of my house! Come to find out, it was BGE putting in a smart meter,” wrote Anderson.
Crofton resident Alysha Lavatori also came home to find a door hanger and a new meter.
“The door hanger was left after the work was completed and we never got a postcard,” Lavatori wrote in an email.
Bowie resident Angela McLaughlin said her first notice of smart meter installation was when a BGE employee knocked on her door telling her to turn off her electronics because they were going to install a new smart meter, but she sent them away because she was working on her computer at the time.
“This is the first we heard that the postcards weren’t being delivered,” said Lewis Marshall. “It could be just one mail drop.”
Councilman Henri Gardner (3rd District) was irate that some of the installations were happening without prior notice, because residents were not being given the chance to opt out.
Gardner’s statements were met by a round of applause when he asked City Manager David Deutsch, “What can we do to prevent anymore smart meters from being installed? I want a halt.”
Deutsch responded that the Council has no authority to stop the installations, but that they could send a letter to the Public Service Commission (PSC) stating their position.
At Robinson’s suggestion, the Council also will send a letter to BGE asking them to cease smart meter installations in Bowie out of courtesy until the PSC has ruled on the matter.
According to BGE, only a few hundred smart meters have been installed in Bowie. If installations go according to plans, all Bowie BGE customers should have smart meters in the next three to four months.
Earlier this year, the PSC ruled that customers have the right to opt out of smart meter installation until they have further investigated the matter. Anyone interested in opting out of a smart meter should contact BGE at:
Smart Meter Deferral
P.O. Box 1475
Baltimore, MD 21203
Or email: firstname.lastname@example.org