Assya and Mario Pascalev could easily have afforded the $14 month fee their local electric utility wanted in return for opting out of a smart meter installation at their Bethesda, Maryland, home. But the couple, both philosophy PhDs, have gone on a temporary protest and are sweating their way through the hottest time of the year without air conditioning or lights.
Two years into the dispute, their unpaid power bill stands at $635 and the Pascalevs are using an LED lantern to make their way around their steamy home at night, at least when they’re not holed up at a local hotel to escape the heat, according to a story in The Washington Post.
Like a number of other consumers around the country, the Pascalevs have resisted the switch to a wireless meter that regularly sends data on electricity consumption to the utility. Power companies say smart meters help manage the grid more effectively, but the Pascalevs say the meters are a violation of their privacy, and could pose health and safety concerns.
The Maryland Public Service Commission says health worries are unfounded, and even the Pascalevs say the evidence is inconclusive. But the couple, who met as university students in Bulgaria in the 1980s, are sensitive to compromises in personal choice, The Post said.
“We’re probably more sensitive to limitations on individual liberties,” said Assya Pascalev, a university professor in biomedical ethics.
Only 2% of Pepco’s customers don’t have smart meters. Customers can opt out, but not for free. The original $75 opt-out clause got the Pascalev’s attention, and the $14 monthly fee Pepco uses to pay for maintenance of the old analog meters pushed them over the edge.
The couple is apparently nearing the end of their protest, in part because their dog is suffering in the heat and they want the AC turned back on. Still, the experience has been useful.
“You know the thing they said about the unexamined life?” Mario Pascalev asked. “We’re thinking about stuff.”