Pacific Gas and Electric Co., San Francisco, California, has installed 2.3 million SmartMeter gas and electric meters..

The automated meters benefit both customers and the utility by giving customers online access to detailed data on their energy use and eliminating the need for customers to unlock gates or secure dogs for monthly meter reader visits. The new meters also give customers the ability to take advantage of SmartRate, a voluntary summer program that can save them money if they reduce energy use during times of peak demand.

"PG&E's SmartMeter program is a great example of how we are leading the way to better serve our customers," said Helen Burt, senior vice president and chief customer officer at PG&E. "The SmartMeter program puts in place a foundation that will enable us to reach new levels of customer service and operational efficiency."

The new devices replace traditional analog meters, which are read manually. The advanced, solid-state meters can be remotely upgraded as technologies evolve. In addition, the new meters include a home area network interface that customers will be able to use in the future to get real-time energy usage data, as well as automate management of their home energy use. These and other features such as power outage detection will roll out in the coming years as PG&E builds the applications to support them.

PG&E's SmartMeter program began installing meters in 2006. By the end of 2011, PG&E will have installed 9.8 million SmartMeter meters for all customers, including 5.3 million electric and 4.5 million gas meters.

Customer response to the voluntary SmartRate program, which encourages customers to conserve during critical peak periods, has been very positive. The program rewards customers with a credit of nearly 3 cents for each kilowatt hour of electricity used outside of critical peak load periods, which occur only on the hottest summer afternoons and on no more than 15 days a season.

Said one customer who participated last summer: "This was one of the easiest (programs) I've ever joined. It not only saved us from high monthly electric bills when it was over 100 degrees, but it was also rewarding. It makes for a nice (credit) at the end of the month and saves us all energy and money."