Baltimore Gas and Electric will be restarting a smart energy project in Bowie that was stalled after the program drew the ire of city council members and residents.
The utility company intends to begin installing smart electric readers at Bowie homes and businesses on Monday. The utility had halted the installation of the meters around Sept. 20 after a mixture of safety concerns about the program, as well as a lack of notifications about the upgrade, led some council members to ask the utility table its effort to upgrade meters at more than 22,000 customers across Bowie.
Smart readers, unlike traditional analog meters, do not require workers to go out and read the meter. Instead, the electronic meters communicate wirelessly with the utility company, allowing for better tracking of home energy use. For customers, the system will allow them to, on a day-by-day basis, track their energy usage, which could allow for smarter energy use.
The utility company announced it would restart the program after meeting with city leaders during the council’s meeting Monday. The meeting came after representatives previously had addressed the council on Sept. 18 to discuss the utility company’s response to summer power outages as well as the installation of new smart readers.
At the same time, the utility company apologized for previously telling city leaders only about 300 homes had received the new meters when the number was greater. More than 3,000 homes had been upgraded to the new technology, according to BGE officials.
Why some residents had not received post cards announcing they would be automatically upgraded to the new meters was unclear, however, an internal audit had shown the company had mailed notices to customers, said Rob Gould, vice president of communications for BGE.
“We believe we followed our communication protocol,” he said. “We don't believe the program has run afoul.”
The new meters have been criticized by groups such as Maryland Smart Meters Awareness, which claims the wireless devices have been linked to a variety of health illnesses, as well as potentially presenting fire hazards.
Such claims were untrue and unjustified, Gould said. The amount of radio frequency given off by smart meters was miniscule compared to that given off by common items such as remote controls or cell phones, he said.
With the outreach effort, Mayor G. Frederick Robinson was optimistic about the relationship between the city and the utility.
“I think it was a total breakdown of communication, and they owned up to that,” he said. “I think they're generally trying to make amends.”
Representatives from BGE will be at the city’s former city hall, now known as the Kenhill Center, 2614 Kenhill Drive from 6:30 to 8 p.m. tonight to answer public questions on the smart meters.