San Francisco, CA, U.S.A. --- (METERING.COM) --- March 25, 2011 - Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) has come up with a plan to give customers a smart meter opt-out option by having the radios in their smart meters turned off and being required to pay the costs of having their meters read manually.

Under the proposal, customers would pay reasonable upfront and recurring fees to cover the costs of turning off the radio, manually reading the meters every month, modifying IT systems and providing information to customers on the program through call centers and other channels. The fees would also help reinforce the existing SmartMeter™ network to compensate for any degradation that turning off the radio causes.

Customers enrolled in the California Alternate Rates for Energy program would receive a discount of 20 percent. Customers would also have the option to take advantage of reasonable financing plans on the upfront charge.

Additionally, customers who would like their smart meters moved to a different location on their property can request that, with the cost of relocating the meter depending on factors such as whether the customer receives underground or overhead service.

The costs for customers who choose to keep a fully functioning smart meter would remain unchanged.

“We believe this proposal addresses concerns some customers have about SmartMeters™ while still delivering the many benefits of the technology to the majority of customers,” said Greg Kiraly, PG&E vice president, SmartMeter™ Operations. “The overwhelming weight of scientific evidence assures us that the low level radio frequency signals from our SmartMeters™ are safe, but we know some customers nevertheless have concerns about the meters and we take those concerns seriously.”

PG&E yesterday submitted the proposal to the California Public Utility Commission. Once approved PG&E would work quickly to make the option available to customers, the company said in a statement.

The plan was submitted on the request of PUC president Michael Peevey, who in a surprise move on March 10, directed “PG&E to prepare a proposal for our consideration that will allow some form of opt-out for customers who object to these devices at reasonable cost, to be paid by the customers who choose to opt-out.”

So far no other utilities in the state have been asked to present opt-out plans, although activists in San Diego are starting to agitate for an opt-out option from San Diego Gas & Electric.