California regulators last Friday revised a proposed decision for offering an option to smart meters for customers alleging health problems related to the wireless devices. It is the advanced meters for electric customers that have caused controversy for a small portion of customers at Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PG&E).
The latest revision cannot be considered by state regulators until Feb. 1.
The revised proposal from the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) would assess reduced charges on customers seeking to go back to analog meters, compared to what was first proposed last November and then subsequently modified by PG&E in December (see Daily GPI, Dec. 21, 2011).
The San Francisco-based combination utility proposed the option of modified smart meters since two-way wireless devices have drawn increasingly strong opposition from some customers in the past two years. PG&E’s proposal was on the CPUC business meeting agenda last Thursday, but action was postponed.
Under the latest proposal, customers choosing to keep an analog meter would be assessed an initial fee of $90 and a monthly charge of $15 for a temporary period until regulators and the utility determine what the actual costs are in offering the analog meter opt-out, and whether some portion of these costs should be allocated to all of PG&E’s customers or the utility’s shareholders.
Earlier, PG&E had requested an initial charge of $270 and a $14 monthly fee. In addition, PG&E had suggested an “exit” fee of $130 for customers who opt out and subsequently decide they want a wireless, smart meter. This proposal was rejected.
If the CPUC in February approves the opt-out program, an earlier requirement that PG&E establish a “delay” list among customers seeking an alternative would be dropped and customers on the list would have to formally request the opt-out option.
“Independent studies repeatedly have affirmed the safety and accuracy of smart meters,” the utility and regulators have said. Nevertheless, in response to comments from some customers, PG&E since last March proposed offering a choice to turn off the radios in their smart meters (see Daily GPI, March 29, 2011) and/or to delay the installation until the CPUC approves a way to opt out of the program.
Regulators now are offering another proposal on what that opt-out program will be, and a decision should come in February.
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