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Do smart meters boost energy bills? Not so, study concludes

SmartMeterInstall P&E’s smart meters are performing accurately, according to an independent study released Thursday, after a rickety rollout that has led to thousands of consumer complaints.

Customers in the spring began complaining of high energy bills almost as soon as PG&E started installing the smart meters. As of Aug. 15, the utilities commission had received 4,471 complaints and inquiries regarding the PG&E meters, compared with just 88 for San Diego Gas & Electric and 169 for Southern California Edison.

Utilities use the meters to remotely determine household energy use, enabling them to charge more for power during peak demand. San Francisco-based PG&E is spending about $2.2 billion to install 10 million meters. About 6.4 million gas and electric smart meters had been installed as of early August.

Pacific Gas and Electric Co.’s customer service, however, could use some sprucing up, the probe found.
Testing of more than 750 smart meters and 147 electromechanical meters concluded that all were working as expected, the California Public Utilities Commission said..

Houston-based energy and utility consultancy The Structure Group administered the study, which included tests in laboratories and in the field. The group also reviewed 1,378 complaints about the meters and conducted in-depth interviews with customers.

The $1.4 million audit, for which PG&E is reimbursing the agency, determined that the utility could have done a better job communicating with and notifying customers about smart meter installation.
Consumers were left confused and frustrated by several incidents in which canceled bills linked to the meters were followed by rebilling statements.

The utilities commission was also on the hook, the study found: The agency deemed many complaints to be closed even though the customers weren’t yet satisfied.

“Customers won’t fully realize the many potential benefits of Smart Meters and other grid upgrades unless utilities and regulators place more emphasis on the human side of the equation,” Commissioner Nancy E. Ryan said in a statement.

Several municipalities in Northern California have already asked regulators to prevent the meters from being installed until accuracy issues are sorted out.

The meters, which transmit energy use data wirelessly to the utilities, have also sparked health worries about radiation levels. The utilities commission has received around 2,000 such complaints, most from Northern California.

For several days last week, residents of Santa Cruz County protested what they called “forced installation” of smart meters on private property, with some expressing worries that the radiation could lead to brain cancer. Watsonville and Fairfax passed laws banning the meters within city limits.

According to PG&E CEO Peter Darbee, the company analyzed emissions from cell phones compared with smart meters positioned 10 feet away from a person and found that “emissions received from a cell phone are 13,000 times more than [from] a smart meter,” Darbee said. “You have to live in a home for 13,000 years before it compares to use of a cell phone for a year.”

--Tiffany Hsu

Photo: Pacific Gas & Electric technician installs a smart meter. Credit: PG&E

 
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PG&E payed for the study. That is not an independent investigation into what is really going on with smart meters.
It is quite simple: the utility knows the customer's historical usage pattern. After smart-meter installation usage should stay at the same level or drop. Usage should not increase. Alarm bells should have gone off at PG&E the moment smart meters reported an increase in usage compared to historical data.

A Smart Meter doesn't increase your bill...yet. It will allow the average user the ability to reduce their bill, by giving more detailed information about the energy used. Soon, residential consumers will have to pay peak and off-peak rates like businesses do. Then the shit will hit the fan! Bills will double and triple for the excessive users, and stay the same for those who are saavy enough to change their habits. Getting solar is the smartest thing you can do, as it will directly affect the peak hour charges that are coming soon.

One one hand, the greenies want you to work from home so as to not pollute during your commute.

On the other hand, we have SCE, who jacks their energy rates on home offices with their new toys. Can't wait until you charge your electric car during daytime.

I'd like to say that Sacramento is either asleep or incomptent, but why bother with the obvious?

The joke is we are going to pay more so that they can hire less people to manually check meters. There were, or are, similar complaints with the roll-out in Northern California. Same health concerns that were debunked, same leaps in monthly bills and standard responses. The only difference with Southern California is that they have the past experience with the North behind them to perfect their hard line. Their standard line were that, "people meters weren't working right in the first place." But the people have no way of knowing if that's is true or not; and just because a meter is saying one thing now doesn't mean it said that yesterday. How would they prove that? It's just like taking you car in for repairs and getting ripped off with fraudulent repairs. Check your meters, check your usage as best you can. If you can afford it, go solar. They're just the giant that's hard to beat.

They came from DWP and installed a new meter at my neighbors house next door. They were told that the one they had was not working correctly. Approx. 2 weeks later they got a bill from DWP for $1,100.00 to be paid in a matter of 2 weeks from receiving it. They called DWP and were told it was an estimate of back pay because of the meter not reading right. Why do they have to pay for the meter not working correctly? Is not their fault, how are they to know that the meter was not working? So unfair! I hope someone investigates why DWP is doing this? Now I'm afraid they're going to come to us next and claim they need to replace our meter and later get a huge bill from them. As it is we are a family of 3, 2 adults one child, only a 2 bedroom 1 bath house, we don't have A/C, we have planted plants that don't need much water, and yet our bill is almost $500.00? Why? We have called DWP and one of their answers was that at least this year it was lower than previous years. They take so much advantage no wonder they have such high salaries.


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