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5/20/2009
06:11 PM
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Smart Grid Opposed By AARP

If you could pay less for a something simply by timing your purchase, you'd want to know about it, wouldn't you?

If you could pay less for a something simply by timing your purchase, you'd want to know about it, wouldn't you?Me too. But I think there's some confusion over at the AARP, because they don't seem to want the pricing benefits that smart grid technology can deliver to consumers.

But why is the American Association of Retired Persons dead-set against it?

Put simply, smart grid technology, in the form of smart meters, can monitor a home's electric consumption and fluctuating prices from the utility company and report how much a Watt costs now versus later. It's about to be trialed in cities across the country and in the U.K., and it's going to give consumers(and energy providers) data to make better decisions.

Last month, Cisco and the city of Miami in collaboration with GE and Florida Power & Light announced plans to deploy 1 million advanced wireless smart meters to every home and most businesses in Miami-Dade County. The smart grid is a growing market that Cisco values at $100 billion over five years.

On Wednesday, Google announced partnerships with eight energy companies to allow consumers to access data about their energy usage through Google's PowerMeter gadget. "Armed with information about their energy usage, consumers can modify their appliance usage habits to save energy and money. And doing so allows utilities to operate more efficiently," writes InformationWeek's Tom Claburn.

And this month the U.K. rolled out what's being called the world's largest smart meter plan. By 2020 every household in Britain will be outfitted with devices that "will empower all consumers to monitor their own energy use and make reductions in energy consumption and carbon emissions as a result. Smart meters will also mean the end of inaccurate bills and estimated meter readings."

But the AARP isn't biting. The group advocates for "energy affordability" for its 35 million members. But in more than 30 states, the AARP is "lobbying to mitigate the price impact of smart-grid technology, advance metering, and dynamic pricing."

Georgia AARP spokesman Will Phillips explains the group's opposition: "Our customers can't afford to respond to price signals."

The AARP's Marti Doneghy put an even finer point on it when she told Forbes: "We vigorously oppose the mandatory imposition of these smart meters in peoples' homes," Doneghy says. "Everybody has to pay for this change, and a lot of the 50-plus population simply isn't that interested."

To which I say, if you think electricity is expensive, try ignorance.

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