ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – PNM’s new plan to upgrade its customers’ meters comes with a hefty price tag. And as one customer discovered, there’s something in the fine print of the proposal that could cost customers even if they opt-out.
For 75-year-old Bob Trudo, paying the electric bill is pretty routine. PNM reads the meter, and he receives a bill.
However, this month there was something with the bill that made Trudo look twice.
“With my PNM bill came this 17-inch long piece of documentation from the Public Regulation Commission,” Trudo showed KRQE News 13.
He assumes most people didn’t bother to read the entire document
“It’s something that has to be brought to public attention because it’s the kind of thing that’s going to hit you in the pocket book,” said Trudo.
The two-page long document is a notice to customers about PNM’s proposal to install Advanced Metering Infrastructure, or AMI meters for the company’s 531,000 customers.
KRQE News 13 reported about the plan on Special Assignment in March.
“The concept is definitely a good idea because it eliminates errors,” explained Trudo.
The new meters would cost more than $87 million.
However, there’s something in the fine print of the proposal that caught Trudo’s attention.
It’s a line on page 2, that states a potential for, “Recurring AMI Monthly Opt-Out Fee of $46.96 to be charged each month to customers who opt-out of receiving an AMI meter.”
That means if customers don’t want the new meters, PNM may bill those customers an extra $46.96 a month. If customers do want the new meters, rates may also increase.
“It’s a lose-lose situation, you’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t,” said Trudo.
A retired engineer from Sandia Labs, Trudo admits he uses quite a bit of electricity.
He has several computers, a commercial-grade printer and a full HD surveillance system with six cameras operating 24-hours-a-day.
But, Trudo is also on a fixed income, and he’s worried about a potential rate hike on-top of what he already pays.
PNM told KRQE News 13 if its plan is approved by the PRC, customers with the new meters would only pay $5 more a year in 2020, then bills will go down after 2024.
Trudo told KRQE News 13 he’ll wait and see.
“What’s the bottom line going to be?” Trudo asked.
Under the new plan, PNM said the company won’t need 125 meter readers anymore. Some of those employees will be applying for other positions within the company.
The following statement was sent to KRQE News 13 from PNM regarding the proposal:
PNM’s Advanced Meter Infrastructure (AMI) proposal will be reviewed in a thorough and public process at the New Mexico Public Regulation Commission and has a long way to go before a final ruling.
PNM is proposing converting to Advanced Meters because a detailed cost-benefit analysis clearly shows that the project will save money for our customers and would offer service enhancements that could help them better manage their energy usage. The proposed AMI program would save customers almost $21 million over the life of the project.
These enhancements include:
· Improved billing accuracy.
· The ability for customers to pick their own payment date.
· Immediate service connection and disconnection.
· The ability for customers to monitor their electricity usage and take control over their energy consumption and monthly bills.
· Alerting PNM when your power goes out — making power restoration faster.
If approved, it would cost customers an additional $5 per year in 2020. After 2024 bills would drop. Savings from the AMI project will exceed the project costs. If the proposal is approved, customers would have the opportunity to opt out of receiving an advanced meter. There would be a fee for that option because of the costs involved in manually servicing those accounts. The proposed opt-out fees are based on the actual costs required by a full time employee, depreciation expenses, administering a program to maintain the system and technological support. The proposed opt-out fees are:
· A onetime fee of $35 if the customer opts-out prior to AMI installation.
· A monthly fee of $46.96.
· After the installation of AMI, there is onetime fee of $60 based on the service order cost of $29.93 times two, plus the monthly fee of $49.96.