Nobody has ever accused utilities of being good at marketing. This lack of sales sophistication continues to haunt the industry. As you will read below, utilities around the country are facing complaints that the consumer benefits of smart meters don’t justify the cost. That’s because utilities have foolishly focused only on bill savings, failing to connect smart meters to reliability. This is particularly ironic in Connecticut, where policymakers and the public alike are up in arms about outages. Yet the state’s largest utility is only now starting to talk about the reliability benefits from grid modernization.

Even though at least 25% of U.S. homes and businesses already have a smart meter, the concept continues to face resistance in other parts of the country, according to an Associated Press story. Privacy and health concerns are often part of consumers’ fears. But the most difficult hurdle, it turns out, is documenting consumer benefits.

In Connecticut, the state’s attorney general has spoken up in opposition to a request by Connecticut Light & Power to install 1.2 million smart meters. “CL&P’s proposal would force the company’s ratepayers to spend at least $500 million on new meters that are likely to provide few benefits in return,” Attorney General George Jepsen said. He estimated it would cost each of CL&P’s customers roughly $411 per meter. In a legal filing, he cited company estimates that residential customers would save just over $11 over a 20-year period.

But those benefits don’t include any value for such things improved reliability, deferred capital expenditure (which defers rate increases). Yet a CL&P spokesman said smart meters would have been helpful during a recent snowstorm that knocked out power to more than 830,000 because CL&P currently has to rely on customers to call and report an outage.

Nor is Connecticut alone in seeing continued pushback from consumers. Earlier this week in Naperville, Illinois — a city often lauded as an early smart grid pioneer — The Naperville Smart Meter Awareness Group turned in over 4,000 signatures to the city clerk’s office calling for a referendum on smart meters. According to the Chicago Tribune, the proposed measure would ask: “Shall the City of Naperville immediately and permanently stop the implementation of the $22 million smart meter project and dismantle all related equipment?”

Advocacy groups in opposition to smart meters have also formed in California, Arizona and Maine.