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California continues to deal with vocal dissenters opposing the widespread switch among energy utility customers -- gas and electric -- to advanced metering systems. While a growing number of small suburbs in the San Francisco Bay area are trying to make themselves smart meter-free zones, objective studies have verified the safety of the meters, which depend on radio frequency-emitting devices similar to -- but less powerful than -- cell phones. The Los Angeles Times on Sunday editorialized in favor of the new meters, noting particularly that on the electric side that they "have the potential to change the delivery of electricity as profoundly as the Internet changed the delivery of information." Utilities save money by eliminating the decentralized house-by-house meter reading function and customers can save by being able to take advantage of time-of-use pricing and smart appliances. With at least four Northern California towns passing moratoriums against the meters, the Times said Pacific Gas and Electric Co. has "rightly ignored the nonsensical bans," noting that it is regulated by the state, not local governments.

A unit of General Electric Corp., GE Energy, has entered into an investment and licensing agreement with California-based eSolar that will allow GE to deploy an integrated natural gas-solar power system worldwide. GE calls the technology "integrated solar combined-cycle (ISCC)" that marries the GE FlexEfficiency 50 combined cycle power plant with the eSolar next generation tower-based concentrating solar thermal technology. MetCap Energy Investments, a Turkish power project investor/developer, plans to collaborate with GE in the investment, a GE Energy spokesperson said. Under the new agreement, GE will license and incorporate eSolar technology into its offers of cost-effective ISCC and standalone solar thermal power plants. Financial terms were not disclosed, and the GE spokesperson said the transaction, which would make GE a minority shareholder of eSolar, should close in a month.

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