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PG&E Submits SmartMeter Opt-Out, but Wants to Charge For It

In an effort to appease critics of the wireless devices, utility giant serves up proposal that would force those who don't want to use them to pay for it.

PG&E has submitted a proposal that would charge customers an up front fee, plus monthly fees and an exit fee, for customers who want to opt out of the utility's .

The company submitted its proposal on Thursday to the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) in response to a requiring PG&E to provide options for residents with concerns about the SmartMeters.

Opponents of the wireless devices, which are meant to reduce energy consumption by monitoring utility use and transmitting the information in real time, argue the radio frequency waves emitted by the meters are detrimental to their health.

PG&E's proposal would give customers the option of having PG&E turn off or disable the radios inside their SmartMeters, which would eliminate the radio frequency, according to company.

The utility proposed charging $135 to $270 up front to have an employee turn off the meters, plus a $14 to $20 monthly fee to keep it off. Customers could choose to pay a per-kilowatt-hour fee instead of the fixed monthly fee.

PG&E would also charge customers an exit fee when they terminate service so future customers could use the SmartMeters.

The utility estimated that about 145,800 customers could choose to have the meters turned off over the next two years, causing an estimated $84.4 million in capital costs and expenses.

The costs include sending personnel to turn off the meters, sending meter readers to manually check the modified meters every month, and upgrading the rest of the SmartMeter radio frequency network to compensate for any network degradation caused by the turned-off radios.

In Mill Valley, most of the SmartMeters have been installed. According to PG&E meter installation data through March 4, PG&E has installed 11,934 gas SmartMeters, or 83.4 percent of the 14,304 total gas meters at residences and businesses in the city. For electric meters, PG&E has installed 9,746 SmartMeters, or 78.2 percent of the 12,456 total electric meters in the city.

Customers can also ask to have their SmartMeters moved to different locations on their property at estimated costs of $2,500 to $4,500 for overhead-meter customers and $6,000 to $11,000 for underground customers.

PG&E's net income in 2010 was $1.1 billion.

As of March 1, the utility had installed 7.7 million gas and electric SmartMeters, which it says only transmit radio waves for milliseconds at a time and for very short durations.

The company estimates exposure to the low-frequency waves total about 45 seconds every 24 hours - much less than cell phones and microwave ovens.

Some residents remain skeptical of PG&E's estimates, though, and say a more thorough independent review should be done before the SmartMeters are thrust upon them.

Speakers packed a CPUC meeting in San Francisco on Thursday and described health conditions they and their loved ones had suffered since the SmartMeters were installed. Many called the proposed charges a form of extortion.

"I shouldn't have to pay more for the right to opt out of irradiation," Petaluma resident Dana Davis said before details of the proposed fee structure had been released.

Davis said she didn't have a SmartMeter and didn't want one, while other residents described experiencing migraines, heart palpitations, and sleep problems after receiving the devices.

Some speakers questioned the effectiveness of the proposed opt-out program in reducing radiation given that other meters would be modified to compensate for those that had been disabled.

The National Cancer Institute has not found conclusive evidence that radio frequency radiation is associated with risks of developing cancer.

--Bay City News Service

Inside9 March 27, 2011 at 05:24 PM
PiG&E now wants the Public Utilities Commission to godfather an extortion game on the lucky people of California. They demand my analog meter for a shiny new possibly toxic smartmeter. They say I have no choice. I must then pay them 270 dollars to turn off (disable) the wireless so that it functions like my old meter plus 20 dollars or more a month in perpetuity. Oh, and when I move or die, whichever comes first, I must pay them a substantial "exit fee". I think if the truth were ever revealed, at this point PiG$E might admit they would rather break my kneecaps. I know how easy it is to disable a smartmeter's "radio function" (pulsed microwave radiation). It takes about a minute or less. But the gangsters at PG&E want to triple dip me with costs and fees. There are people who for personal and/or health reasons prefer not to have this piece of technocrap on their homes. What about apartment dwellers who have 10 of these mounted outside their bedroom wall and have an aversion to 24/7 wireless? Yeah, even if they can personally afford to cough up the big bucks (over $500 extra dollars the first year), how do they get all their neighbors to help them out and buckle under this extortion scheme? What a MISERABLE company! Hold on to your old meters, complain to our government, don't encourage these gangsters!
MV Resident March 27, 2011 at 10:35 PM
Once again, PG&E is trying to stupify the public. This is not an opt out proposal. PG&E still intends to install the new meters that have already been paid for by all the ratepayers. Then PG&E wants to charge customers who don't want the new meters to supposedly disable the radio transmitters. That is not going to cut it for us, the only way to completely disable a SmartMeter is to pull it out and put back the analog meters. And the many customers (like myself) who have refused the new SmartMeters are planning on keeping the existing analog meters for many reasons. It has already been announced that PG&E cannot call the police to help install meters on buildings where people don't want them. So what is PG&E going to do about that ? The SmartMeter roll out is not a law or electrical code requirement, it is just a corporate matter, not a police matter. So is PG&E going to start sneaking around like a bandit and slapping in meters when people are not home ? All I can say is PG&E could get into a "heap of trouble" if they are thinking about anything like that. There are a lot of high powered lawyers who live in Marin County, and some of them live in gated properties with security systems that call the police automatically. Also there are the guard dogs to deal with. If PG&E want's to enter my property, they will have to break down the gate, and if any of my dogs even catch a whiff of a SmartMeter, they will make mincemeat out of the person holding it. Coyote food !
MV Resident March 28, 2011 at 01:16 AM
The SmartMeters, the SMART train, SmartGrowth and the Miller Ave. precise plan are all part of Agenda 21. Check this out. http://www.democratsagainstunagenda.com
MV Resident March 28, 2011 at 01:18 AM
http://www.democratsagainstunagenda21.com

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