Pacific Gas and Electric Company has submitted a proposal to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to give residential customers the option to have the radios in their SmartMeters turned off. Consumers who opt to keep their radios on for a fully functioning SmartMeter would not have to pay extra for the service.
Greg Kiraly, PG&E Vice President of SmartMeter Operations says the utility believes the proposal “addresses concerns some customers have about SmartMeters while still delivering the many benefits of SmartMeter technology to the majority of customers. The overwhelming weight of scientific evidence assures us that the low-level Radio Frequency signals from our SmartMeters 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.”
If the CPUC approves the proposal, PG&E says it will work quickly to make the option available to customers. Under this compromise, customers would pay “reasonable upfront and recurring fees” to cover the costs of turning off the radio, manually reading the meters every month, modifying IT systems, and providing information to customers on the program through call centers and other channels. The fees would also help reinforce the existing SmartMeter network to compensate for any degradation that turning off the radio causes.
Customers enrolled in the California Alternate Rates for Energy program would receive a discount of 20 percent. Customers would also have the option to take advantage of financing plans on the upfront charge.
Additionally, customers who would like their SmartMeter moved to a different location on their property can take advantage of an existing tariff to make that request. The cost for moving the meter would depend on the location, such as if the service is underground or overhead.
On March 10, CPUC President Michael Peevey suggested that PG&E submit a proposal or series of proposals that allowed customers concerned about the potential of wireless frequency health risks the option of having a meter that didn’t use wireless technology.” He stressed that the options should have “a reasonable cost” and would be paid “by the customers who choose to opt out.”
PG&E started deploying smart meters in 2006. It is estimated that by the end of 2010, more than 90 million advanced metering devices were being used worldwide. The Unites States federal government and the international health community, including the World Health Organization, plus numerous independent studies have deemed low-level radio frequency, on which PG&E’s SmartMeters rely, to be completely safe. Additionally, in California, a recent independent study found that SmartMeters™ met every known health standard.
Pacific Gas and Electric Company, is one of the largest combined natural gas and electric utilities in the United States, delivery power to 15 million people in Northern and Central California.