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Smart meter opt-out may be an option

Commission proposes users be able to replace new devices with old ones -- for a fee

Posted: March 16, 2012 1:55 a.m.
Updated: March 16, 2012 1:55 a.m.

Santa Clarita Valley residents who objected to a digital “smart meter” to monitor their electricity usage may be able to get their old-style meters back — for a price, utility officials said Thursday.

The California Public Utilities Commission issued a proposal Thursday that would allow Southern California Edison customers to replace their new smart meters with old-style meters for an initial $75 fee, plus an additional $10 each month.

Low-income customers would be charged an initial fee of $10 and a monthly fee of $5.

The PUC made a similar, final decision earlier this year for Pacific Gas & Electric customers in Northern California who wanted to opt out of smart meters.

“Smart meters” are digital, wireless devices designed to replace traditional mechanical meters. They allow residents to track their own power usage digitally on a daily basis.

They also simplify the process of meter reading.

Edison began replacing Santa Clarita Valley residents’ mechanical meters with smart meters in November. By late January, most had been replaced.

Edison officials say the digital meters are “smart” because they allow residents to monitor their own electricity usage remotely to use the utility more efficiently.

Critics have a range of complaints, among them claims the meters issue potentially harmful low-grade radiation and that the utility could use them to vary rates according to the hour of the day.

Others say the meter data could be hacked and people’s privacy compromised.

Customers had been able to delay the installation of the meters by signing up on a list, but no rulings have been issued on whether Edison customers could opt out of the program all together.

In a prepared statement, Edison officials said they were pleased with the PUC’s proposed solution.

“We are encouraged by the progress of the (California) PUC’s opt-out proceeding, and we continue to fully participate in the process,” Edison officials said. “What we have received today is a proposed decision, and the regulatory process is still ongoing. Therefore, we cannot comment further at this time.”

The utility commission could vote on the issue as early at April 19.

If it is approved, customers who are on the delay list for the meters will be receive a smart meter unless they opt out and pay the fees.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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