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PSC okays Xcel Energy's charges for customers who want to continue with meter readers

Xcel Energy is in the process of installing “smart meters” for their electric customers.

These are automatically connected to Xcel, eliminating the need for meter readers.

But there may be some customers who want to stay with meter readers – and Xcel has come up with a “reading rider” on their electric bills.

North Dakota Public Service Commissioner Sheri Haugen-Hoffart said Xcel is offering an “opt out” option on the smart meters.

"This rider will require a one-time payment of $40 for customers who opt out prior to the installation," Haugen-Hoffart said. "But if a smart meter is installed, and then the customer decides they don't want it, they will be charged $80."

Haugen-Hoffart said Xcel will also have a monthly charge for the meters to be read.

"This Commission believes that a $10 monthly manual meter reading fee allows Xcel to recover its costs, while not being overly punitive to customers who do not wish to have an advanced meter installed at their service location," Haugen-Hoffart said.

But Commission Chairman Randy Christmann objected, saying $10 per month is too high.

"I really feel they're coming up with a big number to just put a foot on the neck of these customers, to force them into taking it (smart meters),' Christmann said. "I was willing to accept a surcharge on the manual readings, but not this high."

The vote to allow the surcharge was 2 to 1. Commissioner Julie Fedorchak was the other “yes” vote.

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