by: Essex Porter Updated:NORTH BEND, Wash. —
A North Bend couple is suing their electricity provider over new, digital electric meters. "Smart meters," as they are called, connect directly to the electric utility and are capable of reporting power use on a continuous basis.
But Larry and Christy Costello believe the smart meters can tell too much about the habits of a homeowner. "The issue that we have with the smart meter technology is that it really is an invasion of privacy to the homeowner," Larry Costello, an electrical engineer, said.
The Costellos are served by the Tanner Co-Op electric utility. The utility says it has roughly 5,000 customers, and that only two have opted out of having a smart meter at their home.
The Costellos are worried that a smart meter could tell the company when appliances are being used and, if sensitive enough, even what TV channel they are watching.
The Costellos are now suing the co-op in part because they are being charged a fee each month to have a meter reader come to their home.
"I don't know what the future holds," said Christy Costello. "I don't want to be told when I can run my dishwasher and when I can run my refrigerator. So those are my concerns and also knowing when I'm home and when I'm not home."
Because of the lawsuit, the general manager of Tanner couldn't say much, but he did say their smart meters don't have the capability to monitor what you're watching on television.
Seattle City Light is planning to use smart meters as well and is asking for public comment. Click on this link to find the next meeting you can attend.