Saturday, March 26, 2011

Post # 61 - PG&E Files Smart Meter "Opt-Out" Proposal

In response to consumer concerns about health risks from exposure to radio frequencies and radiation from wireless smart meter devices – and under heavy pressure from California regulators, see here and here – Pacific Gas & Electric Company last Thursday submitted a smart meter “opt-out” proposal to the California Public Utilities Commission. The PG&E proposal would allow the utility’s gas and electric customers to have the device's communications system turned off – but it will cost them more money for their power.

Under PG&E’s plan, which still needs CPUC approval prior to implementation, the utility is proposing upfront and monthly charges to offset the cost of disabling the meters, employing meter readers and changing its information technology system. The utility would charge customers a $270 upfront fee, plus a $14 monthly charge or an increase in gas and electric rates, or a $135 upfront charge and a $20 monthly fee or increase in rates. The fees would be discounted for low-income customers who qualify for PG&E's CARE program.

In a prepared statement, Greg Kiraly, PG&E’s Vice President for smart meter operations, said:

We believe this proposal addresses concerns some customers have about [smart meters] while still delivering the many benefits of [smart meter] technology to the majority of customers. The overwhelming weight of scientific evidence assures us that the low-level Radio Frequency signals from our [smart meters] are safe – in fact, even safer than many household products, including cell phones and microwave ovens. But we know some customers nevertheless have concerns about the meters and we take those concerns seriously.

But many PG&E customers remain convinced that smart meters are hazardous to their health. They are not likely to be happy with covering any PG&E smart meter costs – particularly (and ironically) “opting out” costs.

In any event, PG&E remains at ground zero in the smart grid wars.

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