Complying with orders from the California Public Utilities Commission, Pacific Gas & Electric Company yesterday released approximately 700 pages of smart meter installation status reports covering the period from August 2006 through April 2010 (see here). PG&E previously had provided these reports to the CPUC on a confidential basis, but earlier this month, in response to numerous consumer complaints (see Post ## 6, 8, and 13), the CPUC ordered that the reports be made public (see Post # 15).
PG&E also held a press conference yesterday, apologizing for the problems to date, defending its overall performance, and describing steps to improve that performance. While acknowledging that smart meters caused billing errors for over 40,000 households and that customers often had problems getting PG&E to respond – Helen Burt, PG&E’s senior vice president and chief customer officer, called the situation “simply unacceptable” customer service – PG&E emphasized that 99% of the smart meters installed to date have functioned properly.
But in recognition that its customer service and communications strategy need an upgrade, the company announced that it has set up a smart meter dedicated call center – where 165 employees can handle customer questions – and is holding town hall meetings in neighborhoods where its doing smart meter installations. PG&E also said it would begin posting weekly information on the number of smart meters having problems and will increase the number of "side-by-side meter tests" to 300, comparing data from old meters to new smart meters.
In response to calls by some consumer groups for a smart meter “moratorium,” PG&E's spokespersons said that the company does not plan to stop installing smart meters. Meanwhile, PG&E’s critics can be expected to comb through the existing posted reports and the forthcoming weekly information for ammunition.