Posted on March 24, 2011

PG&E Offers SmartMeter™ Radio-Off Option

PG&E today proposed a plan to give residential customers an alternative where they could have the radios in their SmartMeters™ turned off.

This proposal, intended to address the needs of some customers who have expressed health concerns about the low-level radio frequencies from a wireless meter, would not increase costs for customers who keep their fully functioning SmartMeter™.

Both the federal government and the international scientific community have said the low-level radio frequencies on which SmartMeter™’s rely are safe. That’s true, too, of the recent report by the California Council on Science and Technology. That study and others can be found on PG&E’s website.

The proposal was presented today to the California Public Utilities Commission, which had requested it. With the so-called “radio-off” option, customers could have the radio in their SmartMeter™ turned off, meaning it would no longer transmit radio frequencies.

“We believe this proposal addresses concerns some customers have about SmartMeters™, while still delivering the many benefits of SmartMeter™ technology to the majority of customers,” said Greg Kiraly, PG&E’s vice president of SmartMeter™ operations.

Customers who chose the radio-off option will pay for its implementation. Costs include a one-time, upfront fee, an ongoing monthly charge and an exit fee. Customers who take this option can pay a higher upfront fee ($270) and a lower ongoing fee, or they can pay a lower upfront fee ($135) and a higher ongoing fee. Additionally, customers can choose between a monthly charge or a new special rate. Customers on the CARE program will receive a 20 percent discount, so they will pay either $215 or $105 as a one-time, upfront fee, depending on which plan they choose.

Charges include the cost of turning off the radio, information processing and IT adjustments. Plans that let customers finance the upfront cost will be available.

On March 10, CPUC President Michael Peevey requested that PG&E propose an option for customers “with an aversion to wireless devices.” He noted that these options should come “at a reasonable cost, to be paid by the customers who choose to opt out.”

Since 2006, PG&E has upgraded nearly 8 million meters to SmartMeters™ in Northern and Central California. These devices give customers greater control over their energy use, as hourly electric and daily gas usage can be viewed online via a account. More than 100,000 customers do this right now. Another 34,000 customers have signed up for Energy Alerts, which let customers know when they’re moving into a more expensive rate tier via text message, voicemail or email.

Customers who opt-out of the SmartMeter™ program won’t be able to benefit from these services. They also won’t be able to take advantage of energy-saving demand-response programs, or a SmartMeter™’s remote connect or disconnect service.

Once the CPUC responds to and approves PG&E’s proposal, the company will make it available as quickly as possible. For more information about the SmartMeter™ program, check out PG&E’s website.

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"PG&E" refers to Pacific Gas and Electric Company, a subsidiary of PG&E Corporation.
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