New bill allows an "opt out" for Georgia Power Smart Meters - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

New bill allows an "opt out" for Georgia Power Smart Meters

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SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) -

Do you have a Smart Meter yet? Georgia Power is moving fast to get the wireless technology in more than 130,000 homes in Chatham County to measure your energy use.

Effingham County homes are now completely switched to Smart Meters, Georgia Power spokeswoman Swann Seiler told WTOC.

However, not so fast. Some state lawmakers now want to give you a chance to "opt out" of the Smart Meter installation.

Senator Buddy Carter told WTOC Tuesday afternoon he signed on to sponsor Senate Bill 459.

"We have had numerous concerns about the health related effects and the personal intrusion into people's lives so I did sign on to give people a choice on whether or not they want to allow Smart meters on their homes," Carter said.

Along with Sen. David Schafer, who presented the bill, and Sen. Greg Goggans, Carter thinks people should decide if they want a smart meter instead of being told they have to.

It's a choice some say they should have had from the beginning.

"They told us we don't have a choice and that's when I got my Irish up," Shannon Kelleher told WTOC.

Kelleher really got worked up last month when she saw someone "tinkering" with her Georgia Power meter.

"I said, you're not putting Smart Meters up are you? They are not coming to the Landings now, are they?  He says, oh...I..ummmh...I ...I'm not the person to talk to about that. I don't know anything," Kelleher said. "That's when my B.S. meter went up."

She called Georgia Power and told them she didn't want a Smart Meter. Kelleher claims the power company representative told her if she didn't have a new meter installed, they would shut off her power.

"When a corporation or government entity tells me what I can and cannot put on the side of my home, it makes me nervous," she said.

After finding the website, www.stopsmartmeters.org, she did her own research.

"I have huge concerns about the privacy, about the cost, they cause fires and  I also huge health concerns," Kelleher said.

'We know that Smart Meters are safe," Seiler told WTOC.

Seiler says Georgia Power does not tell customers their power will be shut off, and contractors not affiliated with the power company are installing the meters.

"If people have concerns we send someone out to talk to them," Seiler said.

Seiler adds, the company never claimed the meters would lower bills, or any other promises other than they would improve service.

"It is a meter, just like your other meter. The only technology that is different is we can read it remotely," she said.

Which raises another concern widely discussed on the internet and in public debates on the topic: Can someone hack the Smart Meter system? 

"No. They are secure meters. It's a radio signal that has been vetted by the FCC and the Public Service Commission," Seiler said. 'Why would Georgia Power do anything that wasn't safe?"

"We are not making a choice for anybody else. We personally feel this is not something we would like on our home," Kelleher said.

So far, 57,000 homes in Chatham and Effingham Counties have been switched to Smart Meters.

The Smart Meter "opt-out" bill will be presented to the Regulated Industries and Utilities Committee in the Georgia senate 'immediately', Sen. Carter told WTOC.

However, the opt-out will not be free. The current draft of the bill  would allow the Public Service Commission could create and regulate a surcharge for customers who want to pay to not have a Smart Meter.

Seiler says Georgia Power officials have not seen the bill and are not prepared to comment on it.

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