Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (San Francisco, California) has formed the SmartMeter Technical Advisory Panel , a group of experts, regulators, business stakeholders and customers, to review the impact of PG&E's SmartMeter program on customers and help the utility follow best practices while rolling out the program across PG&E's service area.

The announcement is the latest step by PG&E to enhance customers' experience of the SmartMeter program. Other measures adopted by the utility over the past few months include increasing the number of Customer Answer Centers throughout new deployment areas, creating a dedicated SmartMeter customer call center, and adding more dedicated and trained SmartMeter customer service representatives.

The new advisory panel will be moderated by Bill Devereaux, senior director of PG&E's SmartMeter program. Members include a customer from one of PG&E's regional Customer Advisory Panels, PG&E's Customer Outreach team, Chris Danforth of the Division of Ratepayer Advocates, David Hungerford of the California Energy Commission, Aloke Gupta of the California Public Utilities Commission Energy Division and Erich Gunther of Enerex.

"As we continue to expand the customer benefits of our SmartMeter program and participate in the state's evolution toward a smart grid for all Californians, we want to make sure our technology rollout empowers our customers to take charge of their energy use, follows the best practices available, and helps California achieve a low-carbon, clean-energy economy," said Devereaux. "The Technical Advisory Panel will ensure that PG&E hears a wide range of opinions on the meter program and the future of the smart grid. They will have our customers first and foremost on their minds."

The panel will help PG&E build on the many program improvements the company has already adopted to enhance customer service, which include:

  • Increasing the number of Answer Centers, and adding 165 customer service representatives, so customers get prompt, personal answers to their questions and concerns.
  • Creating a dedicated SmartMeter call center to ensure speedy, expert handling of customers' specialized issues regarding SmartMeter devices.
  • Introducing a set of new communications timed to introduce customers to their newly installed meter and its benefits.
  • Communicating with customers multiple times, and in multiple ways, about their new meter and how it can empower them to control and reduce their energy use.
  • Calling all customers who receive an estimated bill for two billing cycles, to explain the reasons for the bill estimate and facilitate payment arrangements.
  • Posting online the results of side-by-side meter demonstrations.

PG&E continues to make public monthly reports on SmartMeter program milestones and key developments that it has been providing to the CPUC and its Division of Ratepayer Advocates (an independent division of the Commission that advocates on behalf of customers). Additionally, PG&E updates program deployment, billing and performance statistics weekly.