CPUC, utilities meet to discuss Smartmeter opt-out

July 27, 2011 8:58:16 PM PDT
PG&E is working on a plan for customers to opt out of its controversial new SmartMeter program. In March, the California Public Utilities Commission gave PG&E until the fall of 2012 to work it out. But hearings are already underway on the opt-out option.

People who don't want PG&E's new digital SmartMeter in their homes or businesses will someday have a choice -- the question is, What will that choice be?

About 20 lawyers and advocates are meeting with an administrative law judge to plan how to go forward with figuring with either an opt-out or opt-in SmartMeter program.

The judge realized the scope of the beast, saying, "It looks like it's going to be more than one workshop."

All the various lawyers, advocates and private citizens involved in coming up with that choice were together at the CPUC Wednesday talking about it. An administrative law judge will then decide which options will be studied.

PG&E wants only one option for the opt-out program called "radio-off" where the transmitter sending usage data from the meter to PG&E is turned off. The SmartMeter stays in place, but with meter readers coming to read data as they always have.

"At this time PG&E has explored other options, wired and analog over the course of several months and we have determined that radio-off is the most feasible and cost-effective for our customers," PG&E spokesperson Katie Romans said.

But the Petaluma-based EMF Safety Network says turning off the radio is not enough for people who feel the SmartMeters make them sick.

"The capacity is still there," group spokesperson Sandy Maurer said. "The radio frequency capacity is still there and the utility controls the capacity; so, well, for one thing, how do people trust PG&E?"

PG&E says it has installed 8.2 million of 10 million meters. It insists they are safe, well below FCC radio transmission limits. But there are people equally insistent that the SmartMeters make them sick.

Dave Wilmer is a part of the CPUC's opt-out hearing process; he has a company that assesses homes for radio and electro-magnetic frequencies.

"Turning off the transmitter if a SmartMeter doesn't accomplish anything," Wilner said.

Sometime in the next couple weeks, the judge will issue a decision on which options are to be studied. The next meeting will be sometime in September.

Customers can delay installation of a SmartMeter until the CPUC reaches a decision on PG&E's opt-out proposal by calling 877-743-7378.


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