Progress can prove to be a bumpy road.
At least that is the case in Bisbee where the City Council has responded to community concerns about the installation of “smart meters” for customers of Arizona Public Service, the primary electric utility in Bisbee.
Smart meters record a customer’s power consumption, then transmit that information — usually over a wireless network — to the utility, which monitors that usage for billing purposes.
The system saves APS — and other utilities that employ smart meters — the cost of hiring people to gather that information.
Smart meters have been in use all over the world since the turn of the century. The installed base of smart meters in Europe at the end of 2008 was about 39 million units, according to analyst firm Berg Insight. APS has reported the number of customers it has using the technology tops 900,000.
But that matters little in Bisbee.
At several recent council meetings, discussion of the APS effort to install the meters throughout Bisbee has been a regular topic of public discussion, with utility customers complaining they do not want the devices.
Tuesday night, council members responded, agreeing to send a letter to the Arizona Corporation Commission — the elected body that represents a public oversight of APS — to ask that no more smart meters be installed, until health and privacy issues surrounding the technology are settled.
Santa Cruz, Calif., took a similar step in January, 2012, imposing a moratorium on the meters until more information on whether these devices cause health problems, or raise privacy concerns, can be adequately answered.
Bisbee residents are equally upset that APS is assessing a fee and additional monthly charge for customers who decline the option of installing a smart meter to monitor their power consumption. Council members, however, focused their concerns on whether the technology is a health and privacy risk.
APS representatives will come to Bisbee Sept. 23 for a work session meeting with the council to discuss the concerns.
We’ll see what happens next.