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How PG&E's Smart Meters Work

Learn how the wireless meter-reading devices work

Pacific Gas & Electric's SmartMeters employ a combination of cellular mesh networks and radio frequencies to replace the traditional gas and electric meters. Meter readers will no longer have to come to people's homes.

The wireless SmartMeters record residents' electricity usage data every hour. Every four hours, that data is then sent to a transponder device on a nearby telephone pole using a radio frequency. (Gas meters will transmit the data to the transponder every six hours.) The transponder sends the data back to PG&E using a secure cellular network. For commercial customers, the meters record the data every 15 minutes instead of hourly.

Instead of one data point of usage per month, there will now be 720 data points per month for residential customers.

An additional radio in the meter sends the data back into the house. This means that if customers choose to buy additional devices currently being developed by companies like Cisco, then those devices will read the data and can tell the customer exactly what appliances are using how much energy. If customers don't wish to buy the additional device, they can still log into pge.com and track their usage data hourly with the SmartMeter program.

The communication modules are two-way, meaning PG&E also has the ability to turn off the meters remotely.

PG&E argues that the meters are part of creating a smart grid that will allow customers to better understand their energy use and are the first step in implementing demand response pricing.

Implementation of the meters began in Marin in July and will continue through 2011. PG&E intends to spend $2.2 billion to implement 10 million meters in the state.

The electric meters were manufactured by Landis + Gyr and General Electric. The gas meters were manufactured by General Electric. The communication devices for the electric meters were manufactured by Silver Springs Network and for the gas meters by Aclara.

Inside9 May 21, 2011 at 06:21 AM
The author needs to mention that the meters communicate with each other 24/7, put out over 25,000 extremely strong pulsed signals each day. These have had devastating health effects on many California residents. It is very common for people to start experiencing a variety of radiofrequency related symptoms after installation of the meters. Scientists and people who are sensitive to these signals warn that smarmeters are much stronger than cell phones and that we are in for a public health emergency as a result of the exposure. Call PG&Es Smart Meter delay line today to keep these meters from being installed on your home: 877-743-7378. Warning: they will feed you a lot of BS to try to talk you out of it.
Lou Judson May 22, 2011 at 07:31 PM
Do they offer a report to the customer so they can be vetted? I have heard that many people have had costs go UP after these things went in. We're about to buy a house that has one already - can we get it removed?
Rico May 23, 2011 at 01:21 AM
For those of you who want to know how smart meters work, here is a link that does a good job of explaining the Home Area Networks (HAN) and the rest of the system. http://www.publicintellegence.net/confidential-pge-smartmeter-presentatations/ I have printed out the 2 reports, and I found out that there are 3 options for the HAN's. They are an alliance with HomePlug (a powerline carrier system) and ZigBee. Here is the link. http://.homeplug.org/tech/ZBHP_SE_MRD_09024.pdf There is a whole lot to it, and PG&E does not tell the public anything about the technical aspects of their meter project. It is up to us to do our own research. Unfortunately I have not yet found any information on the remote disconnect feature. It must be a top secret that nobody has posted on the internet yet and PG&E employees don't really know either. My questions are: why do the power companies in all their marketing propaganda not ever mention the enormous new electric load on the power grid to power all the infrastructure, servers, 10 million transmitters in the new meters and the disconnect relays. If the power companies started being honest with their ratepayers about the power consumption of the meter program that the ratepayers will have to pay for, and the requirement of building new power plants or rolling blackouts just because of the new meters, people might oppose it. It's no surprise at all that customers bills will increase.
Amy O'Hair May 24, 2011 at 03:14 PM
To get to this PDF of this report, click the link in the first paragraph here: http://www.homeplug.org/tech/smart_energy/
Rico May 24, 2011 at 04:49 PM
Thank you for the link to the HomePlug/ZigBee alliance. I'll try this address for the confidential PG&E documents. http://www.publicintelligence.net/confidential-pge-smartmeter-presentations/

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