Are SmartMeters really smart?

Red Phone: Safety needed on 6th Street

Hey Red Phone, I was just wondering when these guys come around
wanting to install those SmartMeters, do we have to let them? Have
they gotten all the kinks out?
“Hey Red Phone, I was just wondering when these guys come around wanting to install those SmartMeters, do we have to let them? Have they gotten all the kinks out? What if after getting it installed and my bill goes to $400, then what? Am I stuck paying it? My bill now is about $90 a month. I have just heard too many horror stories from people who have them. Thank you”

Red Phone: Dear Smarting Over SmartMeters, PG&E is scheduled to install SmartMeters at the homes of all residents in Gilroy and Morgan Hill by the end of 2011, said PG&E spokesman Paul Moreno.

The company says the devices will help pinpoint power usages and eliminate the need for meter readers by sending usage amounts directly to PG&E’s billing center. Customers will then be able to log in to their website and see what their consumption was.

But their installation has been anything but smooth, and some customers throughout the state have reported their rates doubling or tripling. Cities such as Watsonville and Fairfax have filed moratoriums against SmartMeters.

“Getting a SmartMeter does not change your rate plan,” Moreno said. “It does offer you more options for rate plans.”

For instance, people with SmartMeters can choose plans that will save them money if they use less energy on the nine to 15 peak days each year when the demand is the highest, he said.

The SmartMeters earned a bad reputation in 2009 after a hot July in Bakersfield, he said. During that time, new meters had been added, and many customers reported increases in their bills. The California Public Utilities Commission investigated people’s claims of higher bills but determined the increases were because of the heat and not the SmartMeters, Moreno said.

PG&E says it tries to let people know by mail when the meters are installed, but several Yorktown Drive residents reported poor communication in August, something Moreno said the company has worked hard to fix.

“What we have been doing is engaging customers in new and creative way to help them learn more about the process,” he said. “We’ve increased our advertising and are trying to have better communication. We send out letters before and after.”

And yes, good caller, you can’t opt out when PG&E comes to install the SmartMeters.

The company encourages people with questions about the new meters to call them at (866) 743-0263.

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