Smart Meter Opt Out Requirements Spreading Through California

miheco/CC BY-SA 2.0

Just last month, the California Public Utility Commission ruled that PG&E must allow customers to opt out of smart meter installations after groups had formed to protest the new wireless meters, but those customers will have to pay a fine and a monthly fee for keeping their analog meters. Now San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E) and Southern California Edison (SCE) have been handed the same orders from the commission, spreading the opt-out option across the whole state of California.

SDG&E and SCE can charge up to a $75 fine and $10 a month, the same that PG&E will charge its customers, to cover the cost of sending meter readers out to read the old meters and other costs.

The reasons for protesting the smart meters remain the same: health concerns related to the radiation emitted from the devices (which studies have found emit far less than a cell phone) and concerns about the security of the devices that send energy use information to utilities over Wi-Fi. But while the opposition groups that PG&E face are mainly community activists, the groups in Southern California seem to have a specific political bent, with many local Tea Party organizations represented, meaning this could become a national cause for the conservative party.

So far, the utilities that have implemented the opt outs haven't seen a huge amount of people taking them up on it. PG&E has only had about 4,400 customers choose to keep their analog meters and only expects 150,000 to do so at most out of their 5.4 million customers. Central Maine Power, another utility letting customers turn down smart meter installations, has only seen about a one percent opt out rate for their customers.

Those low numbers are good news for the future of the smart grid, which will be most successful with the most amount of homes and businesses participating. The more information on energy use, interruptions and outages that can be instantly collected, the better utilities can balance power loads and demand and respond to issues.

Tags: Smart grid | Tea Party | Technology

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