Why PG&E Customers Should Keep Their Meters Smart

Yesterday, responding to customer concerns and a California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) request, PG&E proposed a way to let customers opt-out of having  wireless SmartMeters.

EDF has been closely following this issue and is actively working on the development of the smart grid and the installation of smart meters. Modernizing our electricity system with information and networking technologies – such as PG&E’s SmartMeter – will let us diversify energy sources, eliminate enormous waste, save money and improve air quality, among other things.

We support PG&E giving customers a choice to turn off the wireless chips in their SmartMeters, but encourage consumers to keep them turned on. Keeping the wireless chip on will maximize the environmental, public health and economic benefits of the smart grid – cleaner air, lower energy prices, and accelerating our much-needed transition to a clean-energy economy.

While regulatory agencies and utilities must address public health concerns, research (such as that done by the non-profit, non-partisan California Council on Science and Technology) has not found a scientific link between exposure to radio frequencies from smart meters and human health.

What does pose a risk to all human health is burning fossil fuels to generate electricity. It is one of the biggest sources of pollution. It costs California hundreds of millions of dollars a year in hospital admissions and emergency room visits and the United States billions of dollars annually in health care costs and lost productivity. Even fortunate Americans who are not breathing polluted air pay a price for it.

A smarter grid can reduce this pollution by increasing the use of clean, renewable energy and reducing reliance on the most polluting fossil fuel power plants.

Turning the radio off will also prevent customers from seeing and taking full advantage of real-time usage and pricing information, which can bring cost savings and cleaner air.

We don’t know what percentage of ratepayers would choose the ‘radio off’ option and what effect it would have on PG&E’s ability to maximize the promised benefits of a smart grid. What we do know: some key  benefits will be lost.   

PG&E has proposed a flexible, long-term solution. It keeps the smart meters in place and lets individuals change their minds and take advantage of the technology that makes  these benefits possible. While EDF supports PG&E’s choice of alternatives, we strongly encourage customers to keep their smart meters smart.

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3 Comments

  1. Daniel Hirsch
    Posted March 27, 2011 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    Ms. Navarro, I was troubled by the quote attributed to you in the NY TImes about PG&E's proposal to charge customers hundreds of dollars a year to return to the situation they were in prior to the installation of SmartMeters. I conserve vigorously and pay about $17/month in electric bills. PG&E proposes that my bill be doubled just to return to the situation I was in before the SmartMeter was installed, without my consent, plus pay an additional fee of several hundreds dollars. There is no justification for this. Their cost of reading the meter was built into my existing rates; doubling my cost to return to the original situation makes no sense.

    You say here "study after study has shown that radiofrequency [radiation] poses no risk to human health". Surely you know that is not true. The studies are contradictory, with some showing potential for increased cancer risk and some not; given the long latency period for cancer, it will be some time before we know. It would be helpful if EDF were more careful in its statements.

  2. Cindy Sage
    Posted March 28, 2011 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    It is hard to understand how an organization like EDF could be so blind to the many problems with smart meters, and continue to back them. Your staff really needs to review the evidence before urging consumers to install them. The gains are minimal at best for energy conservation, the economic costs to ratepayers are enormous, the risks to health and privacy are very substantial. You are working from "half-a-balance-sheet" of information.

  3. Posted March 28, 2011 at 7:51 pm | Permalink

    I agree that the notion of smart meters is a good one, but using ones that emit EMFs that are making people sick is not helpful to anyone. I have suffered first-hand from daily migraines until I was able to shut down my smart meter with a faraday cage. I am a supporter of the EDF and am the author of an Environmental book, however I think smart meters, have not been studied enough to be rolled out on such a massive scale.

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