Smart utility meters prompt privacy concerns

Rockland Electric in New Jersey and Orange and Rockland Utilities in New York plan to install more than 300,000 smart meters across all of its service area by 2020, allowing the power company to track usage and outages remotely, respond more quickly during storms, and reduce the costs of house calls and various paperwork while letting consumers see their energy consumption in near real-time.

"Engaging customers in becoming more active energy consumers is really at the heart of what we're trying to do here," said Keith Scerbo, the director for advanced metering infrastructure for Orange and Rockland Utilities

He promised customers to keep the data recorded and sent back and forth between their home's meter and the company would remain secure. Scerbo called the high level of encryption and cyber-security of the smart-meter vender they chose a factor in its selection.

"The energy that is measured by the meter is solely the total energy consumed by the house. It's not any energy consumed by any particular appliance in the house," Scerbo said. "We have no knowledge of what appliances are in the home or how those appliances are consuming energy."

The ACLU has contested that point. The ACLU is arguing that smart meters grant utility companies or hackers gaining access to the power company's data knowledge of not only when a customer is at home or away but also the specifics of which devices they use and when determined by their power consumption.

We struggled to find a Mahwah resident aware of the smart meter technology the company has started installing (and in 2,700 cases finished installing) on Bergen County homes earlier this month.

"We're doing everything we can to keep the customers informed about the project," Scerbo said.