To defuse opposition from smart meter foes and allow utility companies to move forward with grid modernization plans, utility leaders may have to consider creating smart meter opt-out programs regardless of the validity of opponents’ concerns about health, safety and privacy, according to Chartwell’s latest industry report, Smart Meter Opt-Out Programs 2012.

Some utilities may be forced into creating such programs. In May, Central Maine Power was subject to the first regulatory ruling by the Maine Public Utilities Commission that required a smart meter opt-out program. The California Public Utilities Commission could become the second regulatory body to require an opt-out program for Pacific Gas & Electric, with a decision date of Feb. 1.

While developing viable opt-out programs is a growing priority for utilities, Smart Meter Opt-Out Programs 2012 shows that not just any program will suffice. Offering to disable the RF transmitter after installing the smart meter, for example, does not always satisfy vocal opponents. According to the report, an analog option has better potential to neutralize smart meter conflicts and clear the air for better customer outreach efforts with the vast majority of customer who will choose smart meters.

In addition to detailing which opt-out programs seem to be getting the most support, the report discusses the positive impact on customer satisfaction when utilities offer customers options, regardless of where they fall in the smart grid debate.