After super-storm Sandy, a lot of New Jerseyans including many state lawmakers who have taken testimony from the heads of utility companies were shocked to learn that the utilities don't actually have a way of knowing when the power goes out at each individual home.

Flickr User Tom Raftery

There is a fix for this, but one state official doesn't think it's worth the investment.

So-called, 'smart meters' would alert a utility company when there is an outage. PSE&G president Ralph LaRossa estimates it would cost as much as $700 million to install a smart meter for every customer. JCP&L president Don Lynch estimates a price tag of $400 million for his company to do the same.

"A billion dollars just for JCP&L and PSE&G to be spent on smart meters," says New Jersey Ratepayer Advocate Stephanie Brand.

"For over a billion dollars what do we get? We get a meter that will, as it goes out tell the utility that it's going out and then when it comes back on it'll tell the utility that it's coming back on…….To me, if we have a billion dollars to spend, I'm not sure that's the best way to spend it."

The utilities are also concerned about having to lay-off the employees who read the meters. They say those workers also help provide for public safety before, during and after horrific storms and other disasters.

Yesterday, the Assembly Telecommunications and Utilities Committee heard testimony from utility industry representatives concerning the utilities' response efforts to super-storm Sandy to date as well as the utilities' on-going and remaining efforts in the aftermath of the storm.

Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula chairs the panel.

He says, "What we cannot afford to do is to continue to go from one natural disaster to another without streamlining emergency plans, reviewing utility reliability plans, and focusing on improving the resiliency of the industry in such weather occurrences. This, unfortunately, will not be our last encounter with a super-storm. Now that we have more information on what occurred during the storm, we will be able to assess and plan any needed legislation accordingly."