Smart meter controversy lands in court

LIHU‘E — A complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Honolulu by a Kaua‘i taro farmer seeks to stop the Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative’s smart meter rollout.

“The defendant is rushing forward with the installation of so called ‘smart meters’ throughout the island of Kaua‘i, Hawai‘i, despite serious security and privacy concerns, some of which involve apparent constitutional and statutory violations,” states the complaint filed Friday by Adam Asquith against KIUC.

KIUC issued a statement Monday stating that “we are disappointed” at the filing of the complaint.

“While KIUC is committed to the smart meter technology, the cooperative has said it will indefinitely defer installation of smart meters for the small number of members who are opposed to the technology and submit a formal request,” KIUC CEO David Bissell said in the news release.

“We hoped this deferral program and our many conversations with the community about smart meters would relieve the concerns raised by the plaintiff and prevent this issue from ending up in the courts,” Bissell said.

Residential installation of smart meters is scheduled to begin in late April or early May. Bissell said at a quarterly update meeting at the Kapa‘a Public Library on Thursday that a deferral plan will allow residents to opt out by contacting KIUC within two weeks from the notice of installation. “We’re not going to do forcible installation of the meters,” Bissell said at the meeting.

Monday’s news release stated: “KIUC will take time to assess the situation with the few who defer and determine the most appropriate long-term solution without delaying the efficiency and cost control benefits of this technology to the majority of members.”

   Asquith’s complaint seeks a judgment requiring KIUC to cease all smart meter installations until a satisfactory alternative for all KIUC members is available. Asquith, when reached Monday, declined to comment about the case.

“The requested preliminary injunction is urgently needed to prevent potential injury to plaintiff and thousands of other individuals residing on Kaua‘i,” the complaint states.

The complaint asks KIUC to recognize the right of members to continue to use analog meters at no additional cost and establish a policy where smart meters would be installed only through an “opt-in” system.

KIUC’s annual board of directors meeting is scheduled at 1:30 p.m. March 27, with the regular board meeting to follow at 3 p.m. The meetings will be at KIUC’s main conference room at 4463 Pahee St. in Lihu‘e.

A few smart meters have been installed at the Lihu‘e Gardens Elderly complex.

• Léo Azambuja, staff writer, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 252) or lazambuja@ thegardenisland.com.

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