San Diego Gas & Electric has filed an updated proposal for the installation of advanced meters for all of its customers by 2010. The new smart meters represent a major advance that will allow customers to customize their energy usage while giving them the opportunity to reduce costs.

The updated plan calls for the replacement of SDG&E's electric customer meters with smart meters that will allow two-way communications between the utility and its customers. SDG&E also is proposing to tie its gas meters into the system. If approved, meter installation will begin in mid-2008 and be completed by 2010.

The smart meters are expected to provide SDG&E customers with numerous benefits including improved customer service, more real-time information on energy use and faster restoration of system outages. Customers will be able to make more informed energy decisions and have greater control over their energy use and costs as a result.

The new meters, along with advanced communication capabilities, will allow SDG&E to move toward operating its electrical system and providing utility services at much higher levels of automation and reliability than today.

"These meters lay a foundation that provides benefits today and prepares SDG&E and its customers for the technologies of tomorrow," said Anne S. Smith, senior vice president, customer services, for SDG&E.

The updated plan, which replaces a proposal filed with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) in March 2005, supports California's energy policy goals. Those goals call for expanded use of energy-efficiency and demand-response initiatives. The information provided by smart meters will enable customers to customize their energy usage to match savings opportunities by shifting electricity usage away from times of peak consumption.

"We believe our updated plan will provide our customers with added advantages over the original proposal," said Smith.

SDG&E plans an extensive outreach campaign, including the launch of a comprehensive customer-education effort, direct mail, e-mail, Web-based communication and public presentations to inform customers about the program. The outreach will focus on explaining the meter's communication system and its benefits, as well as how to take best advantage of the meter's capabilities. SDG&E also will hold community forums to gather customer feedback.

Before drafting its current plan, SDG&E conducted a thorough and rigorous evaluation of the technologies now on the market, plus their capability to interface with the utility's communications and billing systems. In addition, SDG&E sought competitive bids from potential vendors, while evaluating project management experts to assist in the deployment. SDG&E assessed the potential for sweeping changes in the technology and has developed a plan to incorporate metering and communication advances in the future.

As part of its assessment, SDG&E will begin a series of field tests soon to determine the performance of several meter and communication technologies before making its final selections in mid-2007.

SDG&E's proposal will require approval from the CPUC before deployment could begin. If approved, the smart meters are expected to reduce system costs through meter-reader cost savings, earlier detection of outages, equipment monitoring and deferred construction costs related to reductions in peak usage.