PG&E OKs letting customers opt out of SmartMeters

December 20, 2011 12:46:56 AM PST
PG&E is reversing a controversial policy. Customers who don't want SmartMeters hooked up to their homes will be able to opt-out -- if regulators approve.

After installing about 9 million SmartMeters in California, PG&E said it needed to listen to its customers and let them make the choice. But the choice to ditch the SmartMeters is going to cost the consumer.

In the past, customers have gone as far as blocking PG&E from installing SmartMeters at their homes. After nearly two years of protests by customers wary of the wireless SmartMeters, PG&E has decided to let those customers keep their analog meters.

"The vast majority of our customers realize the benefits of the SmartMeters, however we want to provide our customers who don't want to participate in the program the choice," PG&E spokesperson Blair Jones said.

PG&E says about 85,000 customers are on a list to avoid the SmartMeter installations. They've complained about inaccurate readings, privacy issues and health concerns from the wireless radio waves.

The Utility Reform Network (TURN) has been fighting on behalf of anti-SmartMeter customers.

"SmartMeters are a technology that is not ready for prime time," TURN Executive Director Mark Toney said.

But customers who choose to opt out of the SmartMeter program, and those who want to remove their SmartMeters, will pay an extra cost. The current proposal is for a $90 upfront fee, and a $15 monthly fee for meter readers to come out to their homes, $270 dollars a year.

"That fee is expected to cover a number of things, including manually reading the meter and keeping the capabilities in place," Jones said.

TURN wants PG&E to allow customers to self read their meters and be audited once a year.

"If they do the self read it's going to save the cost of sending out the utility meter reader; they already allow this for a lot of customers, self read will lower the cost," Toney said.

The SmartMeter, however, is designed to help consumers save energy by allowing them to monitor their daily usage.

The California Public Utilities Commission is expected to make a decision on the PG&E request as early as next month.


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