On Monday, the Maryland Public Service Commission (PSC) ruled that Baltimore Gas & Electric (BGE), Potomac Electric Power Company and Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative provide more advanced options for electric use measuring for homes and businesses.

In compliance with the ruling, BGE will install smart meters to businesses and homes beginning in April 2013. The smart meters will allow for the utility to more accurately measure electric use in a timely manner as well as be better able to respond to power outages. Customers will benefit through real-time usage measurements that allow them to be better able to actively change their energy use in order to reduce electricity cost.

Although there is no “convincing evidence” of harm caused from smart meters, some Maryland residents are worried about potential health risks associated with the radio frequency (RF) waves that the smart meters emit. This worry has caused the PSC to look into two options to calm concerned customers:

  1. Customers could opt to continue using their traditional analog meters but at a higher cost.
  2. All customers would be required to accept the installation of the new smart meters, but BGE would have to offer either RF-free or RF-reduced meters for any concerned customer.

Maryland PSC’s Chair and Commissioner, Douglas Nazarian and Kelly Speakes-Backman, opt for the second option, even though both agree that little to no health risks are associated with the smart meters. In a written statement from both: “We are being bombarded by RF from all directions, to a much greater degree than anything an advanced meter could possibly emit.” The statement went on to cite microwave ovens, wireless Wi-Fi routers, laptop computers, and cell phones as each emitting far greater RF than as little as one foot from a smart meter.

Allowing customers to opt out, the two stated, would increase costs for the utilities because two separate systems for measuring electricity would likely have to be created and managed (and it is safe to assume that these costs would be passed along to all BGE customers).

BGE and the other utilities are required to submit information on pricing for each of these options by July 2013. Until an option is chosen, customers are able to opt out of the smart meter program for now. This can be done by contacting the utility.