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Smart thermostat legislation cools in Virginia Senate

Google Nest Labs
Eric Risberg
The Nest Learning Thermostat is on display following a news conference Wednesday, June 17, 2015, in San Francisco.

Smart technology is leading to new fears among lawmakers.

People who have smart thermostats in Virginia can sign up for a rebate program that allows them to save money if they allow utility companies to reduce the drain on the power grid during the hottest parts of the summer.

Senator Jill Vogel is a Republican from Fauquier County who introduced a bill to prohibit utilities from making any adjustments to smart thermostats.

"They can act on your behalf without you having said, ‘Yes, I'm setting my thermostat at this temperature.," Vogel explains.

Amanda Cox at Appalachian Power says people can opt into the program and they can also opt out.

"You can stop any of these events, which we only do in hot weather in Appalachian Power's territory," Cox says. "And if you decide you do not want to participate, all you have to do is set your thermostat to what's comfortable in your home and you opt out of that event."

Senator Mark Obenshain is a Republican from Rockingham County who’s concerned that the technology might go too far.

"They're going to be in the house controlling my refrigerator, and my freezer, and I'll tell you I like my beer cold, OK? Not lukewarm. Cold," Obenshain says.

Temperatures cooled after a heated debate, when the bill was rejected on a party line vote in a Senate panel Monday afternoon.

This report, provided by Virginia Public Radio, was made possible with support from the Virginia Education Association.

Michael Pope is an author and journalist who lives in Old Town Alexandria.