Michael R. Peevey,
President, California PUC
 
San Francisco, CA, U.S.A. --- (METERING.COM) --- February 2, 2012 -  The California Public Utilities Commission (PUC) yesterday agreed to allow Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) customers to retain an analog meter if they don’t wish to have a wireless smart meter installed.

These customers will be assessed an initial set-up fee of $75 and a monthly charge of $10. For customers in the PUC's low income CARE program these charges will be reduced to an initial fee of $10 and a monthly charge of $5.

However, these costs are subject to change in due course when the actual costs associated with offering an analog opt-out option are reviewed.

PG&E's senior vice president and chief customer officer Helen Burt has welcomed the decision, saying: “This final decision in support of analog meters is a positive step forward for those who have concerns over wireless technology.”

PG&E made the proposal to the California PUC in December, with the aim to offer an additional opt-out option to turning off the radios in the smart meters, saying that “some customers ... are clear that an analog meter is the option they prefer to address their unease with wireless technology.”

In commenting on the decision, California PUC president Michael R. Peevey, said that while the standard for metering has been transitioning worldwide from the older analog meters to today's smart meter technology, the PUC is not reversing that transition but “recognizing that certain customers prefer an analog meter.”

Commissioner Timothy Alan Simon referred to the decision as “a great example of how public initiative and participation can result in better regulatory policy.”

Maybe so. But time will prove the wisdom of it. For one thing it can be no more than an interim decision as these older meters become increasingly unavailable. Second it is not yet clear how many customers ultimately will opt-out – if it is as easy as keeping an existing meter more people than otherwise would may be tempted to do so – with the consequent impact back on the smart meter business plan.

Nor are customers apparently likely to take it lying down, with opposition to the charges reported in local media. And what about, sometime on the future, when these customers realize they are unable to enjoy certain benefits, such as favorable (off-peak) pricing to recharge their electric vehicles?

Jonathan Spencer Jones, Editor