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KIUC says members can choose not to have smart meters

By Star-Advertiser staff

LAST UPDATED: 2:42 p.m. HST, Mar 20, 2012

Kauai Island Utility Cooperative will "indefinitely defer" installation of smart meters for any ratepayers who object to the devices, company officials announced in response to a federal lawsuit filed by a KIUC member attempting to block the project.

KIUC member Adam Asquith filed the suit in U.S. District Court last Friday, saying KIUC's plan to install the meters in 33,000 homes and businesses on the island violated constitutional protections against abuse of government authority, and unreasonable searchess and seizures.

Asquith asked the court for an injunction to suspend the installation of the smart meters, which would wirelessly transmit members' real-time energy usage to the utility. Smart meters allow utilities, among other things, to conduct remote meter readings, detect power outages at the household level, and allow their grids to accommodate more renewable energy.

 The suit requested that the injunction remain in place until KIUC adopts a policy under which smart meters could only be installed on an "opt-in" basis. Asquith also asked that members who opt out of the program be allowed to keep their old analog meters without paying an additional fee.

David Bissell, chief executive officer of KIUC, said Monday the utility was disappointed that a KIUC member felt the need to file a complaint to prevent the utility from moving forward with its rollout of smart meters.

"While KIUC is committed to the smart meter technology, the cooperative has said it will indefinitely defer installation of smart meters for the small number of members who are opposed to the technology and submit a formal request," Bissell said.

"We hoped this deferral program and our many conversations with the community about smart meters would relieve the concerns raised by the plaintiff and prevent this issue from ending up in the courts," he said.

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