Some Gilroyans left in dark about PG&E SmartMeter installations

Some Gilroyans left in dark about PG&E SmartMeter installations

Raylene Duran is waiting with bated breath to see if her PG
&
amp;E bill will increase after a SmartMeter was installed on the
gas meter for her home.
Duran lives on Yorktown Drive in Gilroy where a number of
SmartMeters were recently installed on residents’ gas meters as
part of the 36,725 new devices already in the city, according to
PG
&
amp;E’s website.
Raylene Duran is waiting with bated breath to see if her PG&E bill will increase after a SmartMeter was installed on the gas meter for her home.

“We already pay a lot,” Duran said, wondering why she received a gas SmartMeter on Aug. 14, while her neighbor had not.

“Do they pick whoever already pays the most and jack (their bill) up even more?”

Duran lives on Yorktown Drive in Gilroy where a number of SmartMeters were recently installed on residents’ gas meters as part of the 36,725 new devices already in the city, according to PG&E’s website.

A SmartMeter is a device that electronically monitors energy usage in 15 minute increments, transmits data back to PG&E using radio frequencies and is on track to be installed to all Gilroy residents by July 2011. PG&E says the device is supposed to help pinpoint power outages and eliminate the need for meter readers.

Yorktown Drive residents were confused when the devices showed up on their homes without warning and many worry their bills could skyrocket mirroring concerns from communities across California that have led to moratoriums and an investigation by the California Public Utilities Commission on the accuracy of the meters.

PG&E spokesman Jeff Smith said the early installations were part of a replacement program for gas meters that had reached the end of shelf life, and a door hanger should have been left for residents.

“There was insufficient communication and we absolutely apologize for that,” Smith said. “We should have done more and we need to do more in these types of cases.”

Sharla Oliver, another Yorktown Drive resident, said a PG&E employee had knocked on her door to tell her she would be banging around on the side of the house, but didn’t discover the SmartMeter until the woman had left.

“I don’t even know what it is, but they should at least tell us,” Oliver said.

PG&E’s website states residents are to be informed of installation via mail, though they do not need to be home and there are no exemptions for people who want to keep the older analog meters. Smith said since these were replacement meters, Yorktown Drive residents had unfortunately fallen through the cracks.

While the utilities commission is set to release results of its independent investigation of its field testing started in May, other cities such as Watsonville – which voted Aug. 10 to halt the installation of any new smart devices within city limits – and Fairfax have passed moratoriums on the installation of the meters. The findings by the commission will be released at 10 a.m. Sept. 2 at CPUC’s headquarters in San Francisco.

“This is the first I’ve heard about it,” Gilroy City Councilman Craig Gartman said when asked about the moratoriums. “It’s not on our radar to look at it yet.”

Gartman moved into a home in Mesa Ridge about a year and a half ago with a SmartMeter already installed, but hasn’t had any problems so far. He says his bills seem to be a little higher, but he equated that with owning a larger house.

“I haven’t had any concerns,” he said.

Smith says PG&E understands customers have questions and the company will be holding open houses in the future to answer them.

“What we’ve found is that when you give customers the opportunity to ask questions, they become more interested in the technology and its benefits,” he said.

However, residents of Yorktown Drive remain uneasy.

“We wanted to opt out,” Duran said. “We found out you can’t.”

What is a SmartMeter?

A SmartMeter electronically monitors energy usage in 15 minute increments and transmits data back to PG&E using radio frequencies. Gas and electric meters record the total amount of gas or electricity consumed, similar to an odometer on a car. To read an analog gas meter such as this one, look at all four numbers on top. If the hand on any dial is between two numbers, read the smaller number. For more on SmartMeters go to www.pge.com/myhome/customerservice/smartmeter

6,579,561: SmartMeter gas and electric meters installed in California as of Aug. 20

36,725: Number of SmartMeters already in Gilroy. All Gilroy residents will have SmartMeters by July 2011.

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