California delivers smart meter opt out rule

State regulators in California have allowed utility customers to opt out of having a smart meter and instead keep their old meters – even though the smart meters have already been fitted.

It means any customer of PG&E that takes up the opt-out option will pay a fee to cover the cost of the utility having to reinstall their analogue meter and then have someone come out and read it once a month.

The move is a blow for the smart meter sector in the US and potentially in Europe, where many countries with smart meter schemes in the pipeline are watching the established American market for tips and pitfalls.

The decision comes following a successful anti-smart meter campaign by consumers, who objected to smart meters not on the grounds of privacy and data security – which have stalled and even resulted in the cancellation of smart initiatives in the US and The Netherlands – but on health fears: people are concerned electromagnetic signals from the meters’ wireless mesh network cause migraines and nausea.

California Public Commissioner Mark Ferron said: “Obviously, PG&E’s SmartMeter rollout has been controversial, and I know that this decision is also controversial. But this decision strikes a fair balance, and provides a choice without further delay.”

But the smart meter opponents were furious at the decision to impose a fee to have a traditional meter. Josh Hart, a organiser of pressure group Stop Smart Meters, said: “People are going to refuse to pay these fees. You’re going to see personal injury lawsuits and class-action lawsuits.”

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