Pacific Gas and Electric proposes radio off choice for smart meters

San Francisco, Calif., March 28, 2011 — Pacific Gas and Electric Co. proposed a plan to give residential customers the option to have the radios in their smart meters turned off.

Consistent with the California Public Utilities Commission's direction, the utility's proposal would not increase costs for customers who choose to keep fully functioning smart meters.

"We believe this proposal addresses concerns some customers have about smart meters while still delivering the many benefits of smart meters technology to the majority of customers," said Greg Kiraly, PG&E Vice President, smart meters operations. "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."

PG&E submitted the proposal today to the CPUC If the CPUC approves, PG&E will work quickly to make the option available to customers.

Under this proposal, 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 smart meters 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 reasonable financing plans on the upfront charge.

Additionally, customers who would like their smart meters moved to a different location on their property can take advantage of an existing tariff to make that request. The cost of relocating the meter would vary depending on such factors as whether the customer receives underground or overhead service.

On March 10, CPUC President Michael Peevey requested that PG&E "bring to this commission a proposal or series of proposals that will allow customers with an aversion to wireless devices the option of being metered without the use of wireless technology." He added that the options should come "at a reasonable cost, to be paid by the customers who choose to opt out."

PG&E began implementing its smart meters program in 2006. Utilities throughout the United States and around the world are using similar smart meter technology, with more than 90 million advanced metering devices deployed worldwide at the end of 2010.

The federal government and the international health community, including the World Health Organization, have deemed the low-level radio frequency on which PG&E's smart meters rely to be completely safe. And in California, a recent independent study found that smart meters meet every known health standard.

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