Michael R. Peevey,
President, CPUC
 
San Francisco, CA, U.S.A. --- (METERING.COM) --- March 31, 2010 - The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has announced that it has selected utility consulting services and business solutions provider The Structure Group to conduct an independent evaluation of Pacific Gas and Electric Company’s (PG&E) smart meters.

Structure was chosen from among 15 companies or teams that applied to test and validate the meter and billing accuracy of PG&E’s smart meters, following a solicitation by the CPUC in response to concern expressed by consumers and Senators Dean Florez and Roy Ashburn over high energy bills that occurred around the same time PG&E installed smart meters in the San Joaquin Valley area.

“I share the concerns expressed by consumers and members of the Legislature that this independent evaluation get underway, so I am pleased to announce our progress today and our emergence from the red tape of state contracting processes,” said CPUC President Michael R. Peevey. “Structure is a leading expert on smart meters and downstream billing processes and their personnel will have wide access to PG&E's systems to conduct their investigation.”

Criteria that were used in evaluating the companies that participated in the solicitation included knowledge and experience with smart metering technologies, the ability to formulate lines of inquiry, experience with designing solutions and investigation methods, and the ability to function as a prime contractor to oversee this project.

The contract value is approximately $1.4 million and is structured to provide flexibility in adapting the scope of work, if necessary, to accommodate intermediate findings of the investigation. The CPUC is directly managing and funding the contract and has ordered PG&E to reimburse the CPUC for the expense of the contract.

Working under the supervision of the CPUC, the evaluation process will address the following areas:

  • Whether PG&E's smart meter system is measuring and billing electric usage accurately, both now and since meter deployment began.
  • Independent analysis of the high bill customer complaints, which will leverage industry accepted practices for estimating customer consumption as well as account for changes in PG&E tariff rates.
  • Analysis of PG&E's smart meter program's past and current operational and deployment processes, policies, and procedures, against the framework of industry best practices.

The investigation will begin by focusing first on complaints from the San Joaquin Valley area, but will also evaluate the overall smart meter system, including sample testing of smart meters from other parts of PG&E's service territory. Structure will provide the CPUC with weekly updates and interim preliminary reports of the investigation, which is expected to be completed within four months although the timeframe may be shortened or lengthened depending on what Structure uncovers in the initial stages of the project.

PG&E is involved in a rollout of approximately 5 million electric meters and 4.2 million natural gas meters. As these and other smart meters have been rolled out by PG&E and the other state investor-owned utilities, the CPUC has received just over 600 complaints, almost all from PG&E’s service area.