Guide to Smart Meters and Opt-Out Fees

Most of the major electric companies and one gas company in Maryland have installed new Advanced Meter Infrastructure ("AMI") meters, otherwise known as smart meters. These system changes will affect about 2 million electric customers in Maryland. In response to concerns of some customers over smart meters, the Maryland Public Service Commission decided to allow customers to opt-out of taking the new smart meters by paying a fee to the utility company.
If you live in Maryland, you probably live in an electric service territory where you already have an Advanced Meter Infrastructure (AMI) meter, commonly called a smart meter. These companies are regulated by the Maryland Public Service Commission (“Commission or “PSC”). The following companies have installed smart meters:
Delmarva Power (DPL)

The major difference between the traditional meter and the AMI meter is that the new meters can send and receive information. Like a cell phone, these devices digitally transmit information over wireless networks; the networks are operated by the utility companies. These transmissions are a form of radio spectrum signal, thus are governed by Federal Communications Commission regulations. 

In 2010 the PSC first allowed certain electric companies to replace existing meters with smart meters in their service territories. Some customers have expressed health and privacy concerns about these meters. The PSC allows customers to “opt-out,” but they will be charged a fee.

If you have a smart meter in Maryland, you are affected by the Public Service Commission’s orders about opt-outs.

Probably. The companies were required to notify you shortly before they installed the meter. If you are unsure, contact your utility.

If you are a customer in one of the service territories that has installed smart meters, the utility has probably installed the smart meter unless you opted out.

Utilities have additional costs to maintain the old metering system. If you opt out, the fees you will be charged depend on those costs. The fees vary based on which service territory you live in. The PSC has set the following fees the companies can charge to customers who opt out of receiving an AMI meter:

Utility Up-Front Charge Ongoing, Monthly Charge
BGE $75.00 $5.50
PEPCO $75.00 $14.00
DPL $75.00 $17.00
SMECO $75.00 $17.00

The $75.00 up- front fee will be charged over three-monthly billing cycles. The monthly fees will be charged indefinitely and are subject to change depending on later decisions by the Commission.

No. Even if you opted out or deferred, the companies cannot charge an additional fee to install the smart meter.

The utilities have been required to itemize the fee on the customer bills. You will see the fees on you utility bill.

The fees took effect July 1, 2014. Customers who opt out after that date should see the fee appear on the next bill after they opt out, or after the neighborhood meters have been installed. 

No. The PSC allowed the utilities to collect opt-out fees only for costs related to opting out— these are the additional costs that result from allowing customers to opt out.

Several bills were filed with the General Assembly in past years regarding smart meters and opt out fees. However, those bills did not pass. The PSC orders are the guiding authority on these fees. 

As part of their plans to install AMI metering systems, the electric companies have planned on reducing other costs, such as meter reading staff, and phasing out billing systems that only worked for the old meters. Because customers are now allowed to keep their old meters by opting out, the utilities must have dual systems, and incur costs to do things the utilities had planned to phase out or do less of. Maryland law allows utilities to be paid reasonable rates for service they provide to the public. The Commission decided that, because these additional costs are resulting only from certain customers’ desire to opt out, those customers should pay the additional costs. Otherwise, all customers would have to pay the additional costs.

The primary ways to reduce your bill with a smart meter are by participating in various utility- run programs that offer you different incentives for reducing your electric usage at specific times and dates. Of course, any time you reduce your electric usage, whether it’s through a special program, or just using less air- conditioning, for instance, you can reduce your electric costs.

There are two questions: Security of your data and your right as a customer to control access to that data.
Security: There is no doubt that smart meters will collect and provide much more information about your energy usage to the utility than ever before. Depending on your utility, this data may be transferred in one packet, or several packets throughout the day. The data will show usage throughout the day, but it will not show how it is being used. The meter will not be able to say whether that electric usage is linked to your computer or your refrigerator. However, as the AMI meters are networked devices, this makes them more vulnerable in a number of ways that the older meters were not. Security of the utility systems, including customer data, is a major concern for the PSC, utilities and OPC.
Customer Data Privacy: Customers have expressed concern about their privacy and controlling who has access to their usage information. Utilities cannot release customer data to third parties without your permission, unless required by a warrant or subpoena. AMI meters do not change that utility obligation. OPC supports strong customer privacy rules and will continue to monitor and remain engaged with the utilities and the PSC over privacy and cybersecurity concerns related to AMI meters.

There were some news reports several years ago about fires associated with some smart meter installations in other areas of the country. OPC is not aware of any fires associated with smart meter installations in Maryland, and the utility companies have assured the PSC that the meters being installed in Maryland are safe.

The utilities have provided testimony before the Public Service Commission that the AMI meters emit what is known as “non-ionizing” radiation that is like that of a cell phone or other mobile device, and this is supported by federal government agencies that OPC has contacted. When the Commission considered the health effects of smart meters, it decided that although they emit non-ionizing radiation, scientists have studied that form of radiation extensively for several decades and found no evidence of harmful effects on human beings.

While OPC agrees with this assessment, we understand that individual customers may consider the non-ionizing radiation to be hazardous to their health, and do not want the AMI meter installed. That is a personal decision.

You may choose to retain your old meter, or have a non- AMI meter installed, but you will be required to pay the additional fees.

You may opt out in one of three ways:


Call your utility


Write your utility


Go to the utility website (online option not available for all utilities). You will be subject to the fee schedule for your utility.

It depends. In most cases, you should be able to retain the existing meter. However, the PSC has authorized the utilities to install non-communicating digital meters, as well as digital meters that transmit data a short distance by radio signal. These meters, known as ERT or AMR meters, do not communicate on a two-way fashion like the AMI meters, but instead only send a one-way signal to a receiver so a meter reader can take the reading from a short distance away. So, if you still have an analog meter, but it breaks, you may get a different style of meter.

If you have a dispute or complaint about meter installation, fees, billing, or service quality, you should contact your utility first. If the problem is not resolved, you can file a complaint with the Public Service Commission.

To file a complaint, you have four options


File a complaint online.


Download a PSC/CAD complaint form and mail it with any supporting documents.

Maryland Public Service Commission 6 St. Paul Street, 15th Floor Baltimore, MD 21202


If you do not have a computer or access to one, call PSC/CAD at 410- 767-8028 or 1-800-492-0474 and ask them to mail you a complaint form. Inform the PSC/CAD representative if you have a shut-off notice or are off-service and ask them to take a complaint by phone. A form will be mailed to you to fill out and return.


You can fax a written complaint with any supporting documents to 410-333-6844.