Help pack a million meals for struggling seniors on 9-11. Volunteer today


Military and Veterans Discount


Free AARP E-Books

Protecting Yourself Online for Dummies

Here's the mini guide you need to steer through the hazards with confidence.

Learn More


AARP Games - Play Now!


AARP Staying Sharp: Keep Your Brain Healthy

News & Politics Forums

Share your opinions on news and current events that matter most to you.

Join the discussion »

AARP Auto Buying Program




What Makes a 'Smart' Meter so Smart?

AARP and Virginia Citizens Consumer Council Express Concern About Cost, Variable Rates

Eric Gilchrist of Charlottesville is ready for the 'smart grid.'

Gilchrist, 55, has replaced old light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs. He had extra insulation blown into his attic. He uses a programmable thermostat, six ceiling fans, energy-efficient appliances and power strips that keep his electronic equipment from gobbling power.

His energy-saving efforts — which Gilchrist modestly describes as "a little bit here and there" yield electric bills up to 40 percent lower than his neighbors.

Gilchrist looks forward to exerting even more control over his energy usage with a 'smart meter' installed by Dominion Virginia Power in a pilot project for 46,000 customers in his area.

 Dominion will spend $600 million to swap its 2.4 million residential meters in Virginia with smart meters by 2013. Domionion provides energy to two-thirds of the state.

The Obama administration has set a goal to have 40 million smart meters installed nationwide over the next few years, jump-started by $3.4 billion in stimulus grants nationwide. Dominion did not get a grant, but Rappahannock Electric Cooperative in Fredericksburg received $15.6 million to upgrade to smart grid technology, and Northern Virginia Electric Cooperative in Manassas got $5 million from the Department of Energy grant.

Smart meters can read how much energy is used, and when, so the utility can charge variable rates— more for power used in peak periods, less in off-peak times. Customers can lower their bills by running dishwashers or clothes dryers in off-peak hours.
AARP Virginia and the Virginia Citizens Consumer Council are working to ensure that consumers are protected as the new technology is phased in.

"We're not sure that smart meters are going to give consumers benefits as well as company benefits," said Irene Leech of Blacksburg, the consumer council president.

Madge Bush, advocacy director for AARP Virginia, said, "We are not opposed to smart meters, but it's moving so fast we need consumer legislation."

Topic Alerts

You can get weekly email alerts on the topics below. Just click “Follow.”

Manage Alerts


Please wait...

progress bar, please wait

Tell Us WhatYou Think

Please leave your comment below.


Discounts & Benefits

From companies that meet the high standards of service and quality set by AARP.

member benefit aarp financial service auto insurance

AARP® Auto Insurance Program from The Hartford offers members no-cost quotes.

membership benefit financial college aarp

Advice on saving for education from AARP® College Savings Solutions from TIAA-CREF.

AARP Credit card from Chase

Members can earn 3% cash back on purchases with the AARP® Credit Card from Chase.

Member Benefits

Join or renew today! Members receive exclusive member benefits & affect social change.

Rewards for Good

Your Points Balance:

Learn More

Earn points for completing free online activities designed to enrich your life.

Find more ways to earn points

Redeem your points to save on merchandise, travel, and more.

Find more ways to redeem points