FPL juggling questions about ‘smart meters’
By SARA KENNEDY – email@example.com
MANATEE — After basking Tuesday in the glow of a presidential visit, Florida Power & Light Co. officials Wednesday were addressing questions about the “smart meters” whose deployment will be accelerated with $200 million in federal stimulus money.
All of FPL’s residential customers and many of its business customers will get new smart meters in the next couple of years, officials said. The utility company has 4.5 million customers statewide, including 150,400 in Manatee County and 243,027 in Sarasota County.
The new meters are designed to provide energy usage information so customers can better monitor consumption and make cost-saving choices, said Sarah Marmion, a spokeswoman for FPL.
“It’s about seeing how much your family or household is using,” she said. “You might decide to modify your habits, it would be a correlation with how much energy you use, and ultimately your bill.”
Marmion said it was her understanding that the digital smart meters will replace customers’ current meters. She did not know exactly when Manatee residents might first get their new meters, she said.
President Barack Obama on Tuesday joined FPL officials in Arcadia for the commissioning of the largest photovoltaic solar facility in the country.
At FPL’s DeSoto Next Generation Solar Energy Center, he announced that FPL was awarded $200 million in Recovery Act funds to invest in a stronger, smarter, cleaner and more efficient electrical grid, as part of his administration’s $3.4 billion commitment to spurring the transition.
“For the very first time, a large-scale solar power plant — the largest of its kind in the entire nation — will deliver electricity produced by the sun to the citizens of the Sunshine State. And I think it’s about time,” said President Obama.
After touring the solar facility, Obama said, “Smart meters will allow you to monitor how much you spend by month, week, day or even by the hour; so, coupled with other technologies, this is going to help you manage your electricity use and your budget at the same time…”
FPL’s “Energy Smart Florida” is a program designed to bring the electrical grid into the 21st century. As part of the program, more than 100,000 Miami customers already have smart meters, according to news reports.
FPL estimated that 2.6 million customers would have new smart meters by the end of 2011.
“We’re still in a test mode, we haven’t committed to a schedule yet,” said Marmion. “There may be some consumer education involved, I don’t know what the process will be.”