California PUC approves smartmeter proposal

The Californian Public Utilities Commission has approved Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s SmartMeter™ proposal, allowing the utility to move forward with a major investment in new high-tech electricity and gas meters, designed to provide a wide range of benefits to customers while increasing operational efficiencies at the utility.

PG&E’s installation of 9.3 million SmartMeter devices for its 5.1 million electricity and 4.2 million gas customers will start later this year, and is scheduled to be completed in 2011.

Because SmartMeter records each electricity meter’s usage every hour, customers will be able to take advantage of electricity prices that vary by season and time of day, and thus reduce their power bills by shifting consumption to off-peak periods. A key feature of the SmartMeter technology is the ability to reduce peak load on very hot days by providing financial incentives to customers who voluntarily shift electricity usage away from critical peaks.

To achieve this, the CPUC approved PG&E’s proposal to offer customers a critical peak pricing option – residential customers who enrol in the programme will reduce their electricity rates by nearly 3 cents per kWh from June 1 to September 30 during non-CPP events. During a CPP event, however, enrolled residential customers will pay a 60 cent per kWh surcharge, in addition to their regular rates for energy used between 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Enrolled business customers will pay a 75 cent per kWh surcharge for energy used between 2 p.m. and 6 p.m. The number of CPP events will be limited to no more than 15 per year, typically only during the hottest days of summer.