[LINK] smart meters radios can be shut off in California

Jan Whitaker jwhit at janwhitaker.com
Mon Mar 28 09:29:28 AEDT 2011

PG&E Offers Critics Option to Turn Off Smart Meters
March 25, 2011

SAN FRANCISCO — Pacific Gas and Electric proposed 
a solution on Thursday for Northern Californians 
who do not want so-called smart electricity 
meters installed in their homes: they must accept 
them but may have their wireless radio signals turned off, the company said.

Customers who have already had the meters 
installed will also have the option of having the 
radio signal turned off, a company spokesman 
said. The plan is subject to the approval of the 
California Public Utilities Commission, which had 
requested that the company provide an opt-out alternative.

The meters have been the focus of protests in 
suburban counties north and south of San 
Francisco and the coastal regions near Santa Cruz 
and Monterey. Customers have complained that the 
signals cause headaches, nausea and dizziness. 
The meters communicate with the grid, giving it 
constant information on electricity use, and let 
customers monitor their energy use online.

Additional initial and continuing fees will be 
charged to customers who forgo the radio signal: 
the charges will depend on whether a customer 
qualifies for discounts for low-income families 
and whether a customer prefers to pay more in 
initial or monthly charges. Initial fees for 
nonradio customers will range from $105 to $270, 
and monthly fees will be from $14 to $20, depending on the options chosen.

Those who opt out must pay more partly because 
their consumption will not be transmitted 
automatically and meter readers will have to 
gather the information, PG&E said.

Jeff Smith, a PG&E spokesman, said one reason the 
company had hesitated at the prospect of allowing 
the radio signals to be turned off in some homes 
was that the robustness and reliability of a grid 
depended on the percentage of local devices 
communicating with one another. “The network 
needs to be built up around them,” he said.

Some fees from nonradio customers will support 
infrastructure improvements to help the network 
function accurately even with fewer radio signals 
than it was designed to accommodate.

Since 2006, PG&E has installed nearly eight 
million meters in its service area in northern and central areas of California.

Lauren Navarro, a lawyer at the Environmental 
Defense Fund, praised the option as “a flexible, 
long-term solution” that would let ratepayers change their minds later.

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