California utilities commission to allow customers to opt-out of smart meters

By Alison Hawkes

After repeated pressure from groups protesting the rollout of smart meters in Northern California, the California Public Utilities Commission announced Thursday that it will allow PG&E customers to opt-out of the devices on their homes.

California PUC President Michael Peevey said he had spoken with the president of PG&E to allow customers who are averse to Smart Meters to have their electrical use recorded without the use of wireless technology.

“We’re directing PG&E to prepare a proposal to allow opt-out of the devices at a reasonable customer cost,” said Peevey at a CPUC meeting in San Francisco stacked heavily with an anti-Smart Meter crowd.

Peevey did not say how much customers would be charged to opt-out or how the money collected would be used. He said PG&E is expected to submit a proposal in two weeks, although it would take the commission time to develop an opt-out process.

The anti-Smart Meter crowd was largely unimpressed with the announcement. Although they had been calling for an opt-out option, some insisted that nothing short of a moratorium would be safe to the public.

“It’s a concession,” said Sandi Maurer, founder of the Sebastapol-based EMF Safety Network. “He’s tired of everyone showing up at these meetings.”

During more than an hour of public comments, the crowd berated the CPUC for failing to address what they said were serious public health issues related to smart meter use. PG&E has been replacing the older electrical meters throughout Northern California with wireless ones, which do not require door-to-door meter reading but instead pulse out meter use with a wireless signal. The company argues the devices will eventually lead to a more efficient use of electricity across the grid.

PG&E has recently started installing Smart Meters in San Francisco in the Richmond and Marina districts.

But from the very start, PG&E has encountered a public relations battle. Some 30 town across Northern California have put a moratorium on Smart Meter installation. Distrustful residents claim the devices will allow the company to spy on their electrical use, while others have disputed their new electrical bills claiming they’re being overcharged. The potential health impacts of smart meters has been the largest rallying cry, as dozens of people claiming “electromagnetic sensitivity” are linking the use of Smart Meters, cell phones, microwave ovens, wifi, and even lighting to a wide range of health problems for everything from dizziness to cancer.

Scientific studies, on the other hand, have not conclusively linked Smart Meters or other consumer grade electronics to any health impacts.

Nevertheless, the crowd at Thursday’s hearing called Smart Meters a “weapon of attack,” a “biohazard,” and a “violation of 14th Amendment rights.” They called PG&E a “bully” for foisting them on people, and asked for Peevey to step down off the commission.

“You don’t want to be known as the commission who put death boxes in front of everyone’s homes,” said one man.

One person rustled the crowd by claiming a connection between the San Bruno natural gas pipeline explosion to the installation of Smart Meters in the neighborhood.

Some said the opt-out was insufficient to protect people from their neighbors, who might allow Smart Meters on the building next door, or in apartment buildings where dozens may be installed in short distance from one another. They also said it wasn’t fair to make people pay for an opt-out.

“It’s a step in the right direction but it doesn’t go far enough,” said Maurer. “We’re not going to stop until we’ve got safety.”

Commissioners took the onslaught in stride, although Commissioner Timothy Simon eventually piped in over remarks of his he said were distorted at a recent press conference.

“We are all concerned about the health, safety, and welfare of rate payers,” he said. “Anyone who thinks contrary, I’m glad to meet them personally.”

An angry crowd shouted that they would take him up on the offer.

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15 Responses to California utilities commission to allow customers to opt-out of smart meters

  1. Joe Connelly on 03/10/2011 at 4:32 pm

    They installed it for free. Why would I need to pay to have it uninstalled.

  2. shirley balliet on 03/10/2011 at 4:35 pm

    I have 2 house in california
    1 in Santa Rosa Ca and 1 in clearlake,
    I have been refusing to answer the calls in the one in santa rosa, but the one in clearlake Iwas told I could not opt out.

    This is dumb.Who has the right to tell home owners what they can and not do with their own property.And to add insult, to tell the customer they will need to pay,a reasonable fee. Why I did not ask for it.

  3. Dana Skinner on 03/10/2011 at 4:38 pm

    Just called PG&E they will not remove my smart meter. They said this isn’t approved yet. UNREAL!

  4. Michael Bakkie on 03/10/2011 at 4:39 pm

    PG&E should have done a campaign explaining the Smart Meters before installing them. This would have allowed the public to understand what they would do & how they did it.

  5. Carol Harris on 03/10/2011 at 5:03 pm

    I do not want the smart meters you installed on my home. I do not trust them and want them removed for safety reasons and also for snooping reasons and also I do not want to pay for opt out. You put them there against my wishes and its up to you to take them out at your expense. I don’t need any more health concerns and believe you don’t care about what these smart meters can cause to a persons health. Take them out at no charge to the public.

    Sincerely Carol Harris

  6. Dtay on 03/10/2011 at 5:06 pm

    First of all we did not ask for the SMART Meters, it was foisted upon us. Now they want to offer us an opt out option, but at a cost to the consumers. Hmmmm….the greedy gets greedier.

  7. Bart on 03/10/2011 at 5:12 pm

    Why should be charge to take those dam
    smart meters out ! when we didn’t want
    them in the first place!!
    once again pg&e trying to make the public
    pay for their f—— up…

  8. bob marazzani on 03/10/2011 at 5:15 pm

    i want mine removed,why do i have to pay for i didn’t order it?

  9. Joseph Milani on 03/10/2011 at 5:19 pm

    To pay to opt-out??? What are these people at the CPCU smoking? PG&E should be the one paying customers to opt-in. Smart meters are unproven devices. What is promoted bowadays as the smart grid has a very long way to go before it can be deemed reliable and cost-effective for the public. As it is now, smart grid is just a marketing buzzword to make money for companies promoting it at the expense of tax payers.

    Isn’t CPCU supposed to protect customers? Why is it more than often siding with telephone and utility companies. We need to fire these CPCU tax-wasters and send them to stand in long unemployment lines for a while to learn their lessons. Maybe utility companies would hire them since they serve their interest anyway.

  10. Robert Meleady on 03/10/2011 at 5:36 pm

    I was contacted 2 weeks ago by a company doing a SMART Meter survey that I believe was representing PG&E. Among the questions asked were:
    What do I know about them?
    How do I feel about them?
    Would I want to opt out?
    If yes, what would I consider a suitable MONTHLY opt out fee?

    THE SURVEY WAS TALKING ABOUT A SET MONTHLY FEE FOR AS LONG AS YOU OPT OUT! I don’t know if this is to pay for meter readers or just a way to penalize you if you opt out.

  11. John on 03/10/2011 at 5:57 pm

    My wife and I are empty-nesters. We use no more, nor less, electricity/gas now than before PGE installed the dumb meter. Yet, some months, year-over-year, our bills have DOUBLED. One month, when we were on vacation and had everything shut off, our bill went UP. To make us pay to have the darn thing removed is an insult, but I’d do it. Removal would probably pay for itself in a couple of days of HONEST billing.

  12. ROMAN A. FERNANDEZ on 03/10/2011 at 6:09 pm

    i did send an email to the city of Antioch Feb. 24, 2010 to check my meter telling them that ever since they install that SMART meter that my power bill doubled up. up to now never did get a response. I am a resident of Antioch since 2003. NOW i want back my old power meter please.

  13. RobertWilliams on 03/10/2011 at 10:00 pm

    First they ignore you.
    Then they laugh at you.
    Then they fight you.
    They you Win.

    These people challenging PG&E’s program who were called crazies at first are now looking awfully good.

  14. lKelliH on 03/11/2011 at 9:42 pm

    I have demanded PG and E remove the Smart Meters on our electric panel and gas meter. They slapped them on the side of our house right otside my daughter’s bedroom. She’s 10 and her head is 6 inches from the Smart Meter. She will not be sleeping there until it is moved to the garage side of the house. PG & E says it needs us to pay 2K up front as an ‘Engineer’s Advance’. We’ll sue them if they don’t remove it/move it – we are pretty reasonable people, but there are some real potential health risks here (their data means nothing after studying how studies and statistics are put together) Massi and a fire danger. I can’t believe how bad this is and how massive it is. Even that the installers were ‘temp workers’ from Wellington. This is extremely intrusive, disruptive and agenda

  15. Alex on 04/05/2011 at 4:05 pm

    I understand your property is very important to you, and pg&e doesn’t have the best P.R. but the meter belongs to pg&e. there has always been a gas and electric meter associated with your property. why should customers have a choice in something that doesn’t belong to them? if you had a business let’s say in a grocery store, and you wanted to upgrade your cash register to make transactions easier, wouldn’t that be ok? a meter is used by utility companies to keep track of how much energy you use; that’s it. no one is out to get you guys, they just want to improve the way they do business. I live in an apartment complex with 7 units, each of which are connected to smart gas& electric meters. The meters are all outside of a flower shop, the flowers are NOT dying, people are NOT getting sick, and no one’s bill has gone up. It’s sad to see people afraid of something which uses technology that has been around for years. People seem to have a fear of new things-which is understandable, but this is not the kind of thing worth being afraid. I bet when the wheel was invented, people were opposed to it, but it made peoples jobs much easier. We’re talking about a METER! Am I crazy?

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