PG&E Customers Can Say No to Smart Meters, But at a Price

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PG&E customers who have been fighting against mandatory smart meter installations have been granted the ability to opt out and keep their old meters, but it's gonna cost them. The California Public Utilities Commission decided on Wednesday that customers who choose to opt out will have to pay a one-time fine of $75 plus a monthly fee of $10.

The fees will go toward installing analog meters on homes that already had smart meters in place and to cover the cost of having to send workers out to read the old meters. PG&E said that the fine was necessary to make it fair to the majority of customers who switched to smart meters since their energy use information will be automatically sent to the utility via the wireless meters and they shouldn't have to bear the cost of analog meter readings.

The San Jose Mercury News reports that about 60 smart meter opponents who attended the hearing erupted in anger at the decision to levy the fines, with one woman even screaming, "This is a crime against humanity!" Despite the drama, PG&E plans to now swiftly move forward in its large roll-out of smart meters and expects only about 145,000 - 150,000 customers to choose the opt-out.

California's group of vocal smart meter opponents is just one out of many groups across the country that are trying to stop installations of the wireless technology. Their reasons for objecting to the technology range from health concerns about the radiation and electromagnetic signals emitted from the devices, which they fear could cause cancer, migraines or other illnesses, to security and privacy fears. So far, studies have shown the devices pose no health threats and that the radiation is far lower than that given off by cell phones.

In contrast, there are many benefits to smart meters. The devices will help customers to track and manage their energy use and even save some money while allowing utilities to more quickly and efficiently respond to demand peaks, outages and other issues.

Tags: Smart grid | Utilities