Thursday, October 22, 2009

New Meters Leave PG&E Customers Smarting

The natives are restless. PG&E got an earful from angry customers who are a tad bit miffed at their new PG&E smart meters. The Fresno Bee reports that more than a hundred people attended a town hall meeting called by Dean Florez, and nary a person spoke up in favor of the smart meters which ratepayers say have cause major spikes in their bills.

One person noted that his $500 a month bill more than doubled to more than $1,100.

For it's part, PG&E blamed hot weather and recent PUC rate hikes, but that message was lost on the angry mob which resorted to using the "F-word." (Fraud... Not the other F-Word... although I bet that was tossed out too, just not reported.)

What is striking about the meeting is that it went a full 4.5 hours and not a single person spoke in favor of smart meters.

Addressing the question of the reliability of smart meters, the PG&E rep in attendance noted that there are 1.7 million smart meters installed and the companyhas tested 1,700 of them-- 1%. Not surprisingly, Florez and others balked at the sameple size.

In a post this spring, I posted a quote from a Business Week piece on smart grid technology that said the following:

"In particular, they're leery of giving utilities the ability to change electricity prices on the fly, jacking rates up on hot summer days, for instance. Most utilities are prohibited from using variable prices now, but the flexibility to raise rates for a community as demand rises is essential for utilities to get the full benefit of new technology. Consumer groups worry these so-called smart-grid technologies are just another way for utilities to make extra money off consumers."

Sounds like the chickens have officially come home to roost.