RG&E’s smart meter rollout now underway

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. — RG&E’s rollout of smart meters is now well underway. If installers haven’t been in your neighborhood yet, it’s only a matter of time.

But after a few years of serious billing and customer service issues, some customers have lost confidence in the utility and want to opt-out. 

John Masterella of Rochester has seen a number of stories on News10NBC about RG&E’s issues.

“The nightmare that the customers have been going through, some of them with their outrageous bills,” he recalls. 

So, when an installer knocked on his door last week looking to switch him to smart meters.

“I decided to opt-out and let the program go on for a while and see how it plays out,” he tells News10NBC. “Are there going to be more people on the news disputing their bills because of the smart meters, or is there going to be other issues?”

While he waits to see how it goes, it’s going to cost him a monthly opt-out fee of $11.56.

“The peace of mind to me is worth the $11 that they’re going to charge,” he says. 

Nancy Zurell is the senior manager of technical projects for RG&E. She’s leading the Smart Grid roll-out locally and sat down with News10NBC Investigative Reporter Jennifer Lewke. 

Jennifer Lewke, News10NBC: “Can you explain why it’s $11.56 to opt-out?”

Nancy Zurell, RG&E: “So, that was a fee that was set by the PSC. And really what it has to deal with is a number of items, and part of it had to do with the fact that we are building out an entire network to facilitate the communication of the information that is revived from the home meter back to our back office. It is the cost of all of the extra processes and effort to be able to go and bring people that have opted out back into the fold.” 

Lewke: “Now, a lot of people will say, ‘Well, I don’t need you to do that. I’ll just take a picture of my meter and send it to you, can’t we read it that way?'”

Zurell: “We do have the opportunity for people to send in the meter reads, but they’re missing out on quite a few benefits that come from the smart meters as well.” 

Lewke: “If I see this story and think before you even get to me, I want to opt-out, can I do that or do I have to wait until you call me?”

Zurell: “You don’t have to wait, you can call and opt-out. We have a schedule of where we will be when on our website. Really soon we are going to have a customer tool that people can use and put in their address to find out when, in a more pinpointed fashion, when we’re going to be coming to an area.”

Lewke: “If someone misses the opportunity to opt-out and their meters get switched out and they didn’t want them to, do they have to pay to get the old meters back?”

Zurell: “Yes, it is $43.68 cents for one and it’s $58.24 for both of them (the gas insert and the smart meter for electric).”

Lewke: “What kind of opt-out rates are you looking at, at this point?”

Zurell: “So, right now in the Rochester area, we are at less than 1% opt-out rate.”

Lewke: “How many meters have you switched out so far?”

Zurell: “We have switched out about 57,000 meters total. We have “flipped the switch” on about 50,000 of them so far, meaning we would go ahead and bill based on those actual readings.

Lewke: “And any issues with that?”

Zurell: “I’m not aware of any.”

Lewke: “How has the installation process been going?”

Zurell: “We are touching 1.9 million smart meters. It’s a lot to switch out. So, that vendor has been ramping up the number of installers that they have that are both qualified to be able to electric as well as gas installations.”

All customers should get a post card in the mail a few weeks before their neighborhood is scheduled for the switch over.  A few days before the switch-over, you should get an automated phone call letting you know when, specifically, the switch will happen. If you don’t opt-out and both your gas and electric meters are outside, you do not need to take any action. 

Forty percent of homes in this area have at least one meter inside. That’s a challenge for installers who will need access to those meters when switching them over. If a homeowner isn’t home when they arrive, a door hanger will be left with a phone number to call and reschedule. Those who fail to reschedule will have to pay the opt-out fee. 

For more information about the Smart Meter rollout and for a list of public forums where you can learn more, click here.