Residential electric customers who have concerns about wireless technology can now choose either a new smart meter or a traditional analog meter, following the final decision today by the California Public Utilities Commission. Pacific Gas and Electric Co. supports the CPUC's decision and will respond quickly to customers who opt-out of the utility's SmartMeter program.
"We know personal choice is important to our customers when it comes to the meters on their homes," said Helen Burt, PG&E's Senior Vice President and Chief Customer Officer. "This final decision in support of analog meters is a positive step forward for those who have concerns over wireless technology. We understand some customers have been waiting for this decision, and we are actively reaching out to those who have expressed their desire for a SmartMeter alternative."
PG&E is installing digital, wireless smart meters throughout its service area in Northern and Central California as part of a statewide effort to help customers save on their bills by offering them more control over their energy usage, improve reliability and customer service, and conserve natural resources to help the environment. As part of a global effort to modernize the energy grid and transform it into a digital network that will deliver more reliable power to homes and businesses, 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 smart meters, on its way to about 10 million meters in 2012.
Independent studies repeatedly have affirmed the safety and accuracy of smart meters. However, in response to comments from some customers, PG&E in March 2011 proposed offering them a choice to turn off the radios in their smart meters, and then provided customers with the option to delay the installation of new smart meters pending the CPUC's final decision. In December 2011, PG&E asked the CPUC to approve analog meters as another alternative to receiving a smart meter, which was the central element of the CPUC's decision today.
Burt added, "The vast majority of our customers are already seeing the many benefits of SmartMeters. By choosing to stay with our program, our customers will continue having control by seeing where they can save energy throughout the course of the day and making simple but effective changes around the home to save money."
The CPUC's final decision requires customers who opt-out of the program to pay a $75 initial setup charge and a $10 monthly charge. This will cover the costs of manual meter-reading and associated operational and billing issues. Income-qualified customers will pay a $10 initial setup charge and $5 a month.