PUNTA GORDA, Fla. - Millions of homeowners across Florida use smart meters to track their energy use, but customers who would rather keep their old electricity meters say the decision is costing them.
Florida Power & Light's smart meter initiative is meant to encourage customers to save energy, and perhaps some money. Now, customers who don't want the meters say FPL wants to make their bill even more expensive.
Since their rollout in 2009, smart meters have been both a source for savings and a cause for controversy. While millions of Floridians have made the switch from older meters, many people, like Lynette Henk in Punta Gorda, say they have a good reason to keep their old meter.
"My husband has an (electronic medical) device implanted, and there have been studies that have been done with concerns that there might be issues with that," Henk said. "I didn't want to risk my husband's health."
According to Medtronic, the company that makes Henk's husband's medical device, smart meters carry a minimal risk for electromagnetic interference. The company recommends patients stay at least six inches away from the meters.
As FPL continues its Energy Smart initiative, it's making some changes. The company notified customers who use older meters that if they don't switch to a smart meter by April 6, they will be charged a one-time $95 enrollment fee plus a $13 monthly surcharge.
Henk says she doesn't have an issue with the surcharge, since an FPL employee would still have to come to her home and manually read her meter.
"I have a problem with a $95 fee for installation when there's no need to install and it's there," Henk said. "It just seems like they're penalizing people -- trying to force you to get a smart meter."
A spokesperson for FPL said the enrollment fee and monthly surcharge both go toward costs incurred by the company that have been brought on by keeping old meters.
The spokesperson also advised people with electronic medical implants to consult a physician about the risks of a smart meter, however he assured WINK news that the meters operate on a very low radio frequency.