CPUC orders third-party review of PG&E’s ‘smart meters’

SAN FRANCISCO
October 15, 2009 12:04am
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The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) today has ordered Pacific Gas and Electric Company to obtain an independent third-party technical expert to test and validate meter and billing accuracy of its “smart meters” currently being installed in Bakersfield.

CPUC President Michael R. Peevey said that consumers, as well as state Senators Dean Florez, D-Shafter, and Roy Ashburn, R-Bakersfield, have expressed concern over high energy bills that have occurred at the same time PG&E installed smart meters in Bakersfield.

“In order to examine the facts surrounding the issues, PG&E will work with an independent third-party chosen by us to review both the hardware and software of the smart meters,” says Mr. Peevey. “In addition, PG&E must submit weekly reports to the CPUC on customer complaints about smart meters, and must report to the CPUC the location of future smart meter installations and the consumer education and outreach it is conducting in those areas.”

Mr. Florez says he's not entirely happy.

“The PUC has relented on some key points, including conducting independent testing and responding more quickly to customer complaints, which will benefit consumers in the long-run. But they seem intent on continuing to place smart meters in the homes of millions of Californians before we get any real answers on the reliability of this new technology,” says Mr. Florez.

“At least the PUC gave us the courtesy of a response. Now I see what PG&E’s customers have been experiencing.”

The CPUC approved PG&E’s smart meter plan in July 2006 and authorized the company to install the meters throughout its territory and upgrade all of its approximately 5 million electric meters and 4 million gas meters over a 5-year period.

The CPUC says it has allowed the state’s utilities to replace conventional customer electric meters with smart meters because they represent an integral part of the state’s “demand response” efforts. Demand response programs allow consumers and businesses to reduce the use of their electricity during times of high energy demand.

Smart meters are also supposed to allow PG&E customers to access their energy usage on a real-time basis, rather than receiving such information at the end of a billing cycle. The improved system also incorporates a remote connect/disconnect device on all meters, eliminating the need for PG&E to visit the location every time a customer moves in or out of their home.

“Complaints from consumers are not taken lightly and the CPUC is working diligently to determine if there is a problem with meters in Bakersfield,” says Mr. Peevey. “The CPUC will take all necessary and appropriate actions if a problem is found.”

The CPUC says it will also establish an internal task force on smart meter deployment in order to keep abreast of developments in the PG&E service territory and statewide.


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