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Regulators let AEP's Okla. utility charge smart meter opt-out fees


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Regulators let AEP's Okla. utility charge smart meter opt-out fees

Oklahomaregulators signed off on PublicService Co. of Oklahoma's plan to assess fees to electricratepayers that choose to opt out of using smart meters.

TheOklahoma Corporation Commission on July 14 issued an approving advanced meteringinfrastructure, or AMI, alternatives and cost recovery associated with thosealternatives, including a $28 per month charge by the subsidiary for customers opting for a non-standard meter. PSO will use a "non-communicating"AMR meter for the opt-out program, according to the OCC.

TheOCC also authorized PSO to charge a one-time fee of $71 fee for non-standardmeters requested before or on Dec. 31, which will go up to $110 for the samemeters requested on or after Jan. 1, 2017.

Asmall number of PSO customers expressed concern about AMI meters and requestedanother option, the OCC said. PSO in March 2015 filed its application with theOCC outlining AMI alternatives and proposing associated cost recovery.

Accordingto testimony from Brandon Jimenez, an analyst for the commission's publicutility division, filed in July 2015, the one-time charge covers the cost toremove and replace the meters, and the monthly fees recover the cost forPSO to manually read the non-standard meter each month. PSO had first requestedone-time charges of between $183 and $261, depending on when the customerdecided to opt out, the order said.

The state attorney general's office recommended either nofee, or a monthly fee of $5 until the next rate case, but the OCC found thatfee would shift the cause of reading the non-standard meters to customers whodid not choose to opt out.

The digital non-communicating meter is the most "cost-effectivesolution as it allows PSO to utilize its existing inventory, and to the extentthat additional meters need to be purchased, they are the lowest cost metercurrently manufactured," according to the testimony of Derek Lewellen,manager of gridSMART and Meter Revenue Operations for PSO. Lewellen said analogmeters were considered but are not a "viable option" because they areno longer readily available in the U.S. and have a shorter lifespan.

The non-communicating meters "should address theperceived health and privacy expressed by some customers as they do not utilizeRF signals to transmit information wirelessly like PSO's standard AMI meter,"the order said. "In fact, as its name implies, the digital non-communicatingmeter does not communicate wirelessly at all. As such, this also mitigatesprivacy concerns, as this meter does not wirelessly communicate any customerelectric consumption data."

Lewellen also said PSO estimated that about 150 customers would"ultimately elect to opt-out."

The OCC did not approve another one-time fee PSO requestedof $62 to cover testing for the alternative meters, stating it needed moreinformation. The commission directed the company to file separately for thatrequest.

The OCC said it will review the charges mid-2017 to ensurethey are still appropriate. (Cause No. PUD 201500109)