Tuesday, October 6, 2009

California Senator Questions Value of PG&E Smart Meters, So Do We...American Energy Conservation Group, Green Earl, Founder

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California Senator Questions Value of PG&E Smart Meters
Sep 29, 2009 Bookmark and Share

California State Senator Dean Florez (D-Shafter), in response to numerous complaints from consumers regarding high utility bills, has scheduled a hearing in early October to bring together consumers and representatives from Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) and the state's Public Utilities Commission. The senator has asked for proof from PG&E that a single utility customer has saved money with a smart meter.

In a statement issued last week, a PG&E spokesperson said smart meters do not affect utility rates, but do give customers more detailed information about their electricity use that can help them manage their energy costs. The spokesperson contended that 87% of customers who enrolled in PG&E's SmartRate program have saved money on their bills.

While smart meters are widely considered to have proven their cost effectiveness, Florez noted that the sheer number of complaints he received encouraged him to question if they are truly worthwhile. Apparently, some consumers complained that their electric bills are three times higher than they were last summer.

While the utility has not applied for Smart Grid stimulus funds to help pay for its $2.2 billion project to install about 10 million smart electric and gas meters for its customers by 2011, it has asked for a $42.5 million stimulus grant to deploy installers and controllers for roughly 75,000 commercial and industrial customers.

The senator said he also wants to find out how much of the $2.2 billion meter rollout project cost is passed along to consumers, and added that he hopes the hearing will clear the air surrounding finger pointing between PG&E and the PUC regarding high energy costs. The PUC authorized a rate increase for the utility in March 2009.The PUC has declined to comment on the issues Florez raised.

Quick Take: With so many of the requests for stimulus money targeting smart meters, these issues will likely be repeated many times in the months ahead. Energy customers and PUCs around the country are going to want answers – and getting everyone in the same room to talk it out sounds like a smart approach.

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Talk Back to the Author Current Comments (7) Leave a Comment
Is Saving Money the Right Criteria?
While I am certain there are extenuating circumstances at play in this case, I don't know that whether customers are saving money should be the criteria for moving forward with smart meter deployments.

At the end of the day, if we can get people educated on and actively engaged in reducing their energy usage, a smart meter implementation will have been successful. Saving money is a bonus.
Jessica Lorti - 09/29/2009 - 16:58

Smart Meters - help consumers in what way?
Question: Smart Meters are helping consumers in what way? I understand they help the utility by real time usage and demand information, and allow utilities to use the data to make real time trades of energy needs, potentially reducing costs. But where is the direct benefit to the consumer?
Steve Dixon - 09/30/2009 - 02:11

You can lead a horse...
You can lead a horse to a smart meter but you can't make him save. This whole thing is about giving consumers more choice and control. A consumer may actually choose to use more green power and it may be much more expensive. However this may suit his environmental goals and make him very happy. Senator Florez is missing the point. There are many more salient discussions to be had in the world of smart metering and energy source choices.
Jeff Wilson - 09/30/2009 - 08:23

Utilities cannot do it alone
The Senator is missing some important facts about smart meters and the smart grid:

1)Smart meters in isolation do not save consumers money or even tell consumers anything about thier energy use.

2) In order for consumers to monitor their energy consumption habits, they must have a monitoring device (e.g. web portal or in-home-display) that is linked to the data from their smart meters. This interactive monitoring device is the key to consumer education and realization of the benefits of the Smart Grid.

3) Utilities typically charge consumers who have smart meters based on dynamic or "real-time" energy pricing, which makes electricity use more expensive during "peak" price times.

4) consumers must take the initiative to review their energy use data and CHANGE their energy use habits to avoid "peak" prices if they hope to save money.

If consumers don't change their use habits, they will not use less electricity, they will not save money and the Smart Grid will be a waste of time and resources. Bottom line: consumers need monitoring tools and an education on changing energy use habits.

Tim - 10/01/2009 - 16:52

Smart Grid technologies reduce bills, not rates
Smart meters are just one component of an overall Smart Grid for the USA. Smart Grid technologies will increase grid reliability and give consumers the tools to reduce their electricity bills. Any expectations that Smart Grid technologies will reduce electricity rates should be addressed with education.
Christine Hertzog - 10/02/2009 - 11:23

Smart meter can't save money
Smart meters are just digital meters with time stamping capacity and remote communication. In order to save money usage display or usage management system is needed and that's not part of the smart meter therefore all claims that smart meter by itself can save money is not accurate; consumer must watch a display or go to a web site to see the peak time prices in effect and reduce their consumptions accordingly and people don't have that extra time to watch a display screen 24/7 There are automatic computerized systems that can act instead of smart meters and produce real results without engaging the consumers and deliver real savings smartly. See www.sdrt.net
Ray - 10/04/2009 - 22:22

Smart Meters Will Save Money...For PG&E That Is.

The smart grid and I think we can include smart meters, are being called by several people smarter than I am, THE SCAM OF THE CENTURY. Man, that's scary coming through and seeing the last 12 months or so.

I can't wait till PG&E can just cut off my energy by remote control, and I have to swipe a green dot credit card to get them to turn it back on...

15 years ago, I paid by snail mail, my PG&E bill and it was late, so late on a Friday evening they shut off my electricity. I guess they figured a weekend of my freezer food thawing and no TV, heat, or cooking, would teach me a lesson, and it
sorta did.

I went down to their office and paid the bill again cash, and sat down in their little waiting room, think it's gone now. When they asked me what I was doing, I told them I was waiting for them to tell me when my power was back on. They went in the backroom and had a little talk, came out and said my power could not be turned on again until Monday, it was too late now. I told them I'd just wait right there then.

I said, "When you call the police on me please let me know, so I can call the newspaper."

They went into the back room again, came back out and said a truck was on it's way to my house. (I guess today we would call them a Smart Rep. Anyway....

My power was back on within the hour. Green Earl

Earl Allen Boek, aka Green Earl - 10/06/2009 - 12:33

Nothing makes me feel more warm and fuzzy towards PG&E
than watching one of their field reps teaching a little
kid about solar power, on one of their many "we're
bull-shitting you...while we rob you" TV spots. GE

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