Do you know the difference?

For the past month, we’ve uncovered changes to your electric bill. We are continuing our investigations because of the enormous response from consumers (up to 400 e-mails and even more phone calls). In a lot of the feedback, it seems many electric customers are confused about the difference between remote-read radio electric meters and digital/ advanced meters. The meter to the right is an advanced meter.

CenterPoint Energy plans to begin installing advanced meters in every home in its service area (1.77 million customers) in 2008. It will take 5 years for all of the meters to be replaced. CenterPoint says it will allow them to significantly decrease the number of meter readers it employs (currently about 300) because advanced meters will beam your meter reading right back to CenterPoint’s offices. How will CenterPoint pay for the upgrade? It plans to charge every customer $2.50 every month for about 12 years. Even if you’re one of the last customers to get the new digital meter (say they don’t install yours until year 5 of the project in 2013), you will begin paying the $2.50 fee in 2008 along with everyone else.

The meter to your left is a remote-read radio meter, also called an OMR by CenterPoint. Many customers already have these meters. Meyerland homeowner Robert Goodfriend took this picture of his. These types of meters can not transmit your meter reading all the way back to CenterPoint offices, but they will send a signal a much shorter distance, allowing a meter reader to get the signal from the street, without ever stepping foot on your property. Goodfriend, like hundreds of others was charged $69 for this meter. He didn’t actually want it; but CenterPoint insisted its meter readers could not get into his back gate (left unlocked.. and accessible for the last 6 years). After 3 consecutive estimated readings, CenterPoint sent Goodfriend a letter warning him his power would be disconnected if he didn’t pay the $69 for a remote-read radio meter.

Now here’s the kicker: Next year, when CenterPoint begins installing those advanced meters, they will replace the remote-read radio meter that Goodfriend just paid for with a new advanced meter… also at his cost!

Stay tuned.. we’re working on another story with Goodfriend about a new charge on his electric bill. You may find it on yours too. More to come…


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