To provide customers who have concerns about wireless SmartMeter technology with alternative options for recording their energy use, Pacific Gas and Electric Co. has asked the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to give customers a choice to use traditional analog, mechanical meters. This request offers another customer option in addition to the utility's proposal last March to turn off the radios in its opt-out customers' SmartMeters.

"Some customers remain concerned about SmartMeter technology and want alternatives," said Helen Burt, PG&E's senior vice president. "Through comments to us and the CPUC, they are clear that an analog meter is the option they prefer to address their unease with wireless technology."

PG&E is installing digital, wireless SmartMeters throughout its service area in Northern and Central California as part of a statewide program to enhance the safety, reliability, and affordability of its gas and electric services. Similar metering programs are now underway at utilities throughout the country and around the world. To date, PG&E has installed nearly nine million gas and electric SmartMeters.

Independent studies repeatedly have affirmed the safety and accuracy of SmartMeters. However, in response to comments from some customers, PG&E last March proposed offering them a choice to turn off the radios in their SmartMeters. The utility also provided customers with the option to delay the installation of new smart meters until the CPUC approves a way to opt-out of the program. Now, in response to further customer feedback, PG&E today asked the CPUC to approve analog meters as an additional alternative to receiving a smart meter.

Burt added, "Personal choice is important to our customers. In response to their requests, we are asking the Commission to approve an option for customers to receive analog meters."

The CPUC is expected to issue its SmartMeter opt-out decision soon. That decision will likely ask customers who opt-out of the program to pay an initial fee and some reasonable monthly charge to cover the costs of manual meter reading and other associated operational and billing issues.