Action 9 investigates smart meter rates



CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. - Several Brevard County families blame soaring power bills on Florida Power and Lights’ new Smart Meters, but they said the utility claims it wasn’t the meter's fault.    

Christine Strong moved everything into storage since she can't pay the power bill at her one bedroom apartment. One month after Florida Power and Lights installed a Smart Meter, Strong said she got a $400 bill.

"This has got to be wrong. It has to be for the whole complex," said Strong.

The month before, Strong’s bill was $52.  She complained and the utility tested her meter, then blamed the big bill on a faulty air-conditioning unit.

Strong said she can't afford to see next month's smart meter bill.

"I'm being forced out by the new meter,” she said.

John Biros kept the thermostat higher and covered the windows to conserve energy.  He blames the Smart Meter for his $400 power bill.

Biros said he paid $100 the month before it was installed.

"I don't intend to pay it.  I'm going to fight it all the way," Biros said.

Smart Meter over billing complaints are common nationwide.  One consumer group study  found 30 percent of the bills increased after the meters were used some states. 

Florida Power and Light could not tell WFTV how many complaints it received. The utility said it investigates each one and rarely finds the meter caused the problem.

If a bill increases, it could be blamed on the old meter technology, which didn't charge enough.

"There may be times where an older mechanical meter has started to slow down. Then there are sometimes problems when it comes to accurately recording energy usage," said FPL spokeswoman Elaine Hinsdale.

But a week after WFTV talked to Biros, FPL found his Smart Meter was the issue.  It had not been calibrated correctly, so he didn't owe $400, only $85.

But Biros said he still wants the Smart Meter out.

"Put my old dumb meter back in, but they won't,” he said.

FPL gave Strong partial credit, even though it was not a Smart Meter problem. It said more than 3 million meters have been installed with very few complaints.