Smarting over Smart Meters:
Does smart grid technology have a home in Maryland?
BG&E wants to roll out smart meters to customers but critics are questioning several important components of the proposal.
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Smart meters, an upgrade from traditional analogue electric meters, have been heralded as a key step towards the elusive smart grid. They are designed to facilitate communication between end users and utility companies, to help individuals and communities save on electricity, to help utility companies cut operational costs, and to decrease the risk of costly and life-threatening blackouts during peak summer demands. They are typically considered a win-win-win for electric ratepayers, utility companies, and the environment. Yet in June 2010, the Maryland Public Service Commission (MPSC) hesitated over a proposal submitted by Baltimore Gas and Electric to roll out smart meters across its service territory and to institute a new electricity pricing plan that would rely on the meters. Commissioner Douglas Nazarian, Chair of the MPSC, needs to decide whether to approve or deny this proposal based on its economic business case, alongside a multitude of other arguments offered by the stakeholders. Facing a decision that risks the loss of $200 million in federal funding for Maryland, he carefully ponders the costs, benefits, and risks of the proposal. (Teaching guide is available upon request.)