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Although Rhode Island has a smart meter pilot program on Aquidneck Island, there are currently no plans to expand the meters in the state. Rhode Island’s Public Utilities Commissioner Paul J. Roberti doesn't believe smart meters “come close” to justifying their costs and are an ill-advised, unrealistic attempt to modify consumer behavior.

Roberti says, “You know what? The markets, the structure of pricing is not there,” he says. “These people (meter proponents) want to push all this stuff–I call them behavior-modification specialists––forcing things on consumers that don’t come naturally. You can’t get consumers to fully embrace this unless you give them economic pain, which I won’t do. If these things are going to happen, they should happen on their own. We shouldn't go around and front-load all these costs. There’s just not enough of a natural market mechanism to do this. I don’t like when regulators are trying to force things.”

To date, United States utilities have already installed about 18 million smart meters with 40 million more scheduled for deployment in 40 states. By 2015, an estimated 65 million smart meters will have been installed.

In neighboring Massachusetts Attorney General (AG) Martha Coakley’s office wrote a letter to the state’s Department of Public Utilities (DPU) Commission, expressing skepticism that smart meters justify their costs. “Despite these clear trends, [National Grid] proposes to launch a massive pilot at great ratepayer expense to test already tested hypotheses.”

A spokesperson for National Grid notes: “We followed a defined process with the DPU that the AG was part of. The DPU ruled and now we are executing the pilot that we believe to be in the best interest of customers and will help in defining the future grid that will serve customers for generations to come. The meters are designed to provide participating customers a new level of choice and control over their energy use through advanced technology, with the goals of empowering customers to save energy, increasing electric service reliability and improving response to power outages.”

Despite the reservations of some high profile state officials, Consumer Reports says that a national smart-meter implementation across the United States is “all but a given.”
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