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How to Address Customer Concerns about Smart Meters

Nevelyn Black's picture
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Nevelyn Black is an independent writer with a background in broadcast and a keen interest in renewable energy.  In the last few years, she transitioned from celebrity interviews and film shoots...

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  • May 31, 2018 2:15 pm GMT
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This item is part of the Special Issue - 2018-05 - Customer Care, click here for more

U.S. opposition to smart meters is not as common as some other countries, but surprisingly many people are worried about smart meters.  Advanced meters help modernize the grid, provide accurate billing, alerts utilities of power outages and allows customers to monitor energy usage.  Based on those benefits, you may think customers would be happy to have smart meters installed.  But that assumption would be wrong.  After reviewing concerns regarding smart meters, it’s clear why a mandatory opt-out policy for Washington state's new smart meter initiative was adopted.   Most commonly known, are concerns about safety, privacy and cyber attacks.  Perhaps more surprising, are the mounting concerns about smart meter radiation causing harm and/or premature births.

Whatever the issue, how can utilities address concerns and abate fears? 

According to experts, providing absolutes and guarantees about safety is NOT the way to go.  Rob Thacker, astrophysics professor, contests that the opposite is true, he states ”uncertainty very often is the currency of science.”  Customers and truly the public in general should be weary of any service or company that makes promises and absolute statements.  He continues, "When you're looking at [let's] say websites that are trying to influence you, they'll often talk about absolute certainty, they'll often talk about things in a way that appeals to having the answer. When in fact, science, if it's good science, shouldn't do that," he said.  Theory should be based on all the facts and can change over time when new evidence becomes available.  ”It should be completely clear what the limitations of the study are.”  With an abundance of information online, he said it's easy for people to find materials that confirm their assumptions, good or bad.  So smart meter testing is essential for safety and cybersecurity measures are imperative.  Further research on the effects of long term exposure from non-ionizing radiation (including your smartphones) should be conducted. But completing these great feats still may not convince customers to make the switch to smart meters.  However, honesty and candor go a long way toward mutual trust.

Acknowledge concerns and focus on the immediate benefits of smart meters...modernizing the grid, providing accurate billing and optimizing services.  Oh and let the uneasy opt-out. 

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