As Pacific Gas & Electric begins installation of its SmartMeters across Marin County this month, both the Marin County Board of Supervisors and a local coalition of real estate agents have called for an immediate halt on the devices.
On Tuesday, the county board approved a letter drafted by supervisors Hal Brown and Judy Arnold that asked the California Public Utilities Commission to halt PG&E's $2.2 billion meter program until the completion of an ongoing, independent review of allegations of overcharging and concerns about possible health impacts.
The move comes one week after the Marin Association of Realtors took a similar stand, saying too many questions have been raised about the digital meters, which the utility giant has said will provide customers with more accurate bills for monthly gas and electricity use. The new meters use wireless radio signals to transmit data on power usage from individual homes straight to PG&E, eliminating the need for manual meter readers. PG&E began installing the meters in Marin County this month, starting with Novato.
"Although some have urged that we come out against the installation of the meters altogether, we believe a moratorium is a more moderate approach," the coalition of 1,500 Marin real estate agents said in a statement. "During this time-out, the public will have an added opportunity to carefully consider the controversial nature, unanswered questions and series of allegations that opponents to the Smart Meter have raised."
Earlier this month, the Fairfax Town Council approved creation of an ordinance to prevent installation of SmartMeters in Fairfax. The city of San Francisco last month petitioned the California Public Utilities Commission, which approved the meters, to suspend further deployment of the SmartMeters until an independent evaluation of the technology is completed.
The complaints began in the San Joaquin Valley area in late 2009, when ratepayers complained that their bills increased dramatically after SmartMeter installation. The Fairfax council raised additional questions about health impact and privacy considerations.
PG&E spokesman Paul Moreno said the Marin Association of Realtors is the first business organization in the state to call for a SmartMeter moratorium.
"We feel that a moratorium is unnecessary," he said. "The number of complaints to date have been very small and have had no adverse impacts on customers."
Moreno said any decisions about the continued installation of the SmartMeters lies with the commission. Marin Association of Realtors has scheduled a private meeting for July 23 to hear from both sides of the issue.