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Smart Meters are a Dumb Idea – Eugene Water and Electric Board Tries to Sell its McKenzie River Customers for Cash

Posted by Scott Rohter on Wednesday, August 28, 2013



smart meters 1

Smart Meters are a Dumb Idea!

 Eugene Water & Electric Board Tries to Sell Customers for Cash

By Scott Rohter, September 2013


EWEB logoI received a letter the other day from my electric utility company telling me that they were exploring something called a “service territory transfer”.  I thought to myself, “What the heck is that?” Exploration is something that you do in outer space, not right here in my backyard… What the heck is a service territory transfer anyway? What is being transferred, to whom, and why? So to satisfy my concern I called the Eugene Water and Electric Board and I asked them about it. I quickly learned that nothing was actually being transferred. Something was really being s SOLD to another electric utility company!  That something was me…  Actually it was me and about three thousand of EWEB’s other good customers. This is what I learned…

The business of providing electricity to the residents of Vida and about three thousand nearby electric utility customers is being offered for sale to another electric utility company for the cold hard cash that EWEB needs to expand some of their other operations. These “other operations” are not a part of EWEB’s original charter which is to provide clean water and safe and reliable electricity to all of its customers. Ever since there has been electricity in my community it has always been provided by the Eugene Water and Electric Board and that is the way I want it to stay. They installed all the electric poles in the ground and they laid every foot of the power lines that connect Vida to the grid.

When the power goes out up here as it inevitably does every winter because of tree limbs which break off and fall on the power lines shorting them out, interrupting the transmission of power, there is nobody that can restore power faster than the people who built the system. They know every inch of this territory and every part of their electic grid like the back of their hands and I have no desire to freeze in the dark longer than I need to whenever a tree limb happens to fall on a power line.  I have no desire to have my electric service transferred to another electric utility company which will have to undergo a very steep learning curve in order to get up to speed and be even half as good as EWEB is.

If this “transfer of territory” is allowed to go through then another power company would be providing my electricity which is much smaller than EWEB. They would have to provide service to many more customers than they are currently used to servicing. This means that they would have to hire many additional people…. That means new people who are unfamiliar with the territory.  That means longer waits when the power goes down. Currently they don’t have enough employees to take care of these additional customers. That sounds like a recipe for disaster and I am not interested in becoming one of Lane Electric’s latest guinea pigs.. I want to remain a satisfied customer of EWEB.

If EWEB needs money to expand its operations into other non-essential areas then let them raise funds in the usual manner by borrowing money or selling bonds instead of selling off their customers which are the reason for their existence.  These other activities that EWEB wants to engage in are not an essential  part of their charter. Their mission and their responsibilities come first. The job of providing safe and reliable electricity might not be as exciting or politically correct as some of these other areas that EWEB wants to focus on like green energy, windmills, and wave energy, but providing safe and reliable electricity to its customers is still the main business of an electric utility company.

When EWEB’s new general manager Roger Gray took over the utility company several years ago I was told that he was a smart guy who could reposition EWEB after a very unpopular 200 foot Lane County overlay map proposal that EWEB supported. This unwelcome initiative tried to confiscate 200 feet of private property from every rural Lane County land owner that had surface water on their property, and it stirred up enough opposition around here to attract over 500 angry property owners to a Lane County Board of Commissioners Meeting where the proposal was quickly tabled.

EWEB windmillsI would like to address my following remarks to the management and the elected officials of the Eugene Water and Electric Board. You are proposing an outrageous suggestion. You want to sell off part of your service territory to another electic utility company in return for the cash to provide other non-essential services that are not in your charter to do. Providing electricity to ALL OF YOUR CUSTOMERS is actually your mission. It is the main reason for your existence. It seems to me that Mr. Gray is making the same mistake that his predecessor made. He is not taking into consideration the all of EWEB’s customers. The people who live in the outlying areas of Lane County like Vida, Oregon are in EWEB’s territory. At least this time we are being informed early enough in the process to get involved and stop this transfer. That much EWEB did learn from their last public relations fiasco. The first public meeting is on September 17th at 5:30pm at the McKenzie Fire and Rescue building in Leaburg. Please be there.

Here is the kicker in this whole story to sell part of their territory to another electric utility company. If Lane Electric is allowed to buy this territory from EWEB then Lane Electric will install smart meters on everybody’s house. There is no opt-out available for homeowners who don’t want a smart meter. Lane Electric will install smart meters whether you want one or not. EWEB does not use smart meters right now, and if they ever decide to use them in the future, they have already said they will offer an opt-out program for anyone who doesn’t want a smart meter. That’s the way it should be.

I was curious why power companies actually want to use these smart meters in the first place so I put that question to the information officer at EWEB.  I asked him if smart meters were actually designed to reduce the consumption of electricity during peak hours as we have been led to believe by the media.  Were they going to offer reduced rates for electricity during off peak hours? In other words are smart meters actually designed to modify a customer’s use of electricity. I was all prepared to tell him what a dumb idea that was. People are not going to modify their consumption of electricity just because there is a smart meter on their house.

Customers are more than likely going to find themselves just paying more money for the electricity they use during the peak hours when they use it. If electric utility companies really wanted to modify their customer’s use of electricity then a much better idea would be for private businesses to simply stagger their employee’s work hours in the morning so that one third of the employees in a given area would start work at 7AM, another third would start work at 8AM, and another third would start work at 9AM. This could all be done voluntarily. Then people would all not be using their toasters and coffee pots at the same time every morning, or turning on their ovens at the same time every evening. That makes sense to me.

I was very surprised to learn that the modification of a customers use of electricity is not the main reason that power companies are installing smart meters. The real reason for smart meters is simply to save money by eliminating the jobs of meter readers… Now how stupid is that? More Americans are out of work now than at any time in our Nation’s history except for during the Great Depression, and these schlemiels in charge of our nation’s electric utility companies are looking for ways to save money by eliminating more jobs.

In conclusion I think that EWEB should stick to the business of managing their entire service territory and providing safe and reliable electricity to all of their customers. Lane Electric should manage their territory. I do not support this transfer of EWEB’s McKenzie River Valley territory to Lane Electric. The only thing being passed around here is a bunch of horsepucky and I am opposed to it. I am going to try to make sure that no money changes hands either.

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