San Diego Gas & Electric (SDG&E), which serves 3.4 million California consumers using 1.3 million electric meters and more than 825,000 natural gas meters, has filed an updated proposal to install advanced meters for all of its customers by 2010.

SDG&E's proposal would require approval by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) before deployment could begin. The commission is reviewing a similar proposal by Pacific Gas and Electric Co., and it has already granted that utility $49 million in pre-start-up funds (see Daily GPI, Sept. 23, 2005; June 17, 2005). Both utilities also have begun pilot programs in various locations around the state.

If SDG&E's program is approved, the smart meters are expected to reduce system costs through meter-reader cost savings, earlier detection of outages, equipment monitoring and deferred construction costs related to reductions in peak usage.

Under SDG&E's proposal, the utility's current electric and gas meters would be replaced with smart meters to allow two-way communication between the utility and its customers. If approved, meter installation would begin in mid-2008 and be completed by 2010.

"These meters lay a foundation that provides benefits today and prepares SDG&E and its customers for the technologies of tomorrow,'' said Anne S. Smith, senior vice president, customer services, for SDG&E.

The updated plan, which replaces an SDG&E proposal filed with the CPUC in March 2005 (see Power Market Today, March 18, 2005), would support California's energy policy goals, the utility said. Those goals call for expanded use of energy-efficiency and demand-response initiatives.

If approved, SDG&E would launch a comprehensive customer-education effort, direct mail, e-mail, Web-based communication and public presentations to inform customers about the program. The outreach would explain the meter's communication system and its benefits, as well as how to take best advantage of the meter's capabilities. SDG&E also would hold community forums to gather customer feedback.

Before drafting its current plan, SDG&E said it conducted a "thorough and rigorous evaluation" of the technologies now on the market, plus their capability to interface with the utility's communications and billing systems. SDG&E also sought competitive bids from potential vendors, and it said it had assessed the potential for "sweeping changes in the technology," by developing a plan to incorporate metering and communication advances in the future.

As part of its assessment, SDG&E will begin a series of field tests soon to determine the performance of several meter and communication technologies before making its final selections in mid-2007.

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