PG&E facing customer revolt

January 2, 2010

imagesPacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) has halted installation of the so-called “smart utility meter” in Bakersfield after hundreds of customers complained that the readings weren’t accurate.  [Bloomberg News]

The meters, designed as the centerpiece of the Obama administration’s push to update the U.S. electrical grid, are designed to help consumers conserve power during periods of peak demand.

However, one Bakersfield resident quoted in the article saw her electrical bill double to as high as $874 for one month, after the meter was installed. Meanwhile, PG&E is facing a lawsuit from another Bakersfield resident, who is hoping to make it a class action suit.

PG&E officials insist the meters are accurate. The state Utilities Commission has ordered an independent study of billing accuracy.



  1. R.Hodin says:

    For those of us who feel that radiation generated by wireless systems such as these (and including cell phones, cordless phones & wifi) pose an unacceptable health risk, it would behoove PG&E to make the installation optional to rate payers. In addition, the radiation exposure should be quantified so that neighbors in densely populated areas would have an idea of their involuntary exposure.

    Do I want to pay PG&E for the privilege of being irradiated by their 24/7 stupid-meters? I want a choice.

    (2) 4 Total Votes - 3 up - 1 down
    • pasowino says:

      I hate to tell you, but standing out in the sun for any length of time is going to give you more radiation than any radio mounted to your electrical panel on the outside of your house. In fact, I bet you are getting radiated right now by the computer monitor you’re reading this one. You better go build yourself one of those funny tin foil hats. :)

      (2) 4 Total Votes - 3 up - 1 down
    • BeenThereDoneThat says:

      WIRELESS???? You’re kidding right?? These meters are not wireless. The information will be sent via the wiring from PG&E into your home. It will be sent back to a central location of computers that will collect the information. NO WIRELESS!!

      (-1) 1 Total Votes - 0 up - 1 down
    • Jim Zim says:

      Seriously?!? You’re worried that the smartmeter outside your house is going to give you cancer?!? Wow. That’s pretty amazing. Sure, I could see why maybe you would be worried about holding a cell phone up against your head… and how that might have some health risks. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to worry a little bit about the health effects of a transmitter held directly against your head. I get that. But a transmitter on the outside of your house?

      You do realize that the further away you are from a source of radiation, the less risk it poses? When you are dealing with an extremely low-power transmitter like a cell phone (or a smart meter) moving it a matter of inches decreases the radiation tremendously. A transmitter outside your house is no threat to you.

      If someone in the same room as you uses a cell phone, do you leave the room?!?

      (0) 0 Total Votes - 0 up - 0 down
      • cheseburger says:

        Yes sir; jim jim, I do, three people I know have brain tumors under the ear they used, to talk on the cell phone with, think they still feel as you? Think they still use them, want to tell your story to their kick boxing champion husband? Pull your head out from the shadows and get a clue any radiation poses a threat of cancer, even a tv, to get heavy the transformers, on the poles are a terrible danger if you live under them.

        (0) 0 Total Votes - 0 up - 0 down
  2. Jim Zim says:

    I worked as a meter reader for PG&E for two years, so I have a unique perspective in to this story. The most important thing you all need to know is that it is quite common for a very old meter to eventually go bad. A lot of meters out there are as old as the houses they are attached to. After 30 or 40 years of use, the meters (which have a lot of mechanical parts) can start to wear out. When this happens, they start to turn slower and slower and what happens is this will display a false (low) reading on the meter. If no one at PG&E catches this, a customer could have a bad meter for years and years… which displays an incorrectly low reading… thus making it look like the customer is using way less energy than they really are. So, they get a very low bill for a long time, unless someone at PG&E finally figures out that the meter has gone bad and it gets replaced with a new one that works properly. In my two years as a meter reader, there were many times when I noticed a customer that seemed to have suspiciously low energy usage. When that happened, I would report it and a technician would come out and test the meter to see if it was working correctly. If it wasn’t, a new meter was installed. This happened quite a few times.

    So, my theory is that in most of those cases where people got a smartmeter installed and then all of a sudden started getting much larger electricity bills… it’s not that the new smartmeter is reading incorrectly. The smartmeters have all been tested and are known to be accurate. The meter that was inaccurate was the OLD meter that the customer had before the smartmeter. It was giving a false low reading all along.

    Of course, for the vast majority of PG&E customers, both the old meters and the new meters work just fine. Any increase in the bill after installation of the smartmeter was probably because either there was a rate increase at around the same time as the meter installation (there are rate increases almost every year) or because the customer bought some new energy-hogging 52″ plasma TV.

    PG&E went in and tested the smartmeters at several hundred homes where people complained about large bills after the new meter was installed. In every one of those cases, the meter checked out as working accurately. Of course, by that time, there was no way to find or test the old meter that used to be at that house… but my bet is that if they had saved and tested that old meter, they would find that it was displaying a false low reading.

    (4) 6 Total Votes - 5 up - 1 down
    • R.Hodin says:

      You’re comparison is worthless. It’s like comparing a new Honda to an unmaintained 40-year-old Chevy. The original meters were tested before they were installed, so the issue is not that the old meters are not usable, it is that PG&E is too cheap to maintain them. Now they want to lay off more employees by using these toxic home-based radiation generators. As far as PG&E’s concerned, there is always a “safe” level of exposure to radiation. And there is no such thing as job security for the rank & file @ PG&E.

      (-5) 7 Total Votes - 1 up - 6 down
  3. pasowino says:

    The “Smart Meters” are the exact same meters that PG&E has been using for years only now they have a radio installed to transmit the energy usage data back to PG&E and eliminating the need to send meter readers out to everyone’s house. Poor meter readers, but when you think about all of the meter reader trucks roaming all over PG&E’s territory everyday reading meters, this should have a positive environmental benefit.

    (3) 7 Total Votes - 5 up - 2 down
    • MeterMan says:

      The Smart Meters being installed are not the same meters as PG&E used 40 years ago but rather highly accurate devices.
      The cost to maintain the old devices exceeds the values of the original meter and my history has shown the old meter may not maintain the corrected accuracy once installed on the side of the house. This all appears to be a facade for the real issue which is customers are not aware of what they use and when they use their electricity. Rather than the rhetoric comparisons of the before and after would be a much better use of everyone’s time s

      (1) 1 Total Votes - 1 up - 0 down
  4. BeenThereDoneThat says:

    My question is this. The woman from Bakersfield, was she over baseline? You can pay a hell of a lot more in base line overages than the same amount used within baseline.

    As far as my understanding of the new meters (which PG&E wants installed on all their customers by end of 2011) it should not have an affect on your bill now. It will eventually when implimented in a couple years. The idea being that you will get a break on power in off hours (evening) and pay more in prime time (days) PG&E is trying to balance the load, as it is WAY high during the day with business use. I am not trying to defend PG&E, nor do I have any interest or business with PG&E, it is just a FACT of reality that something needs to be done. I would rather face problems before they are bad, than fix after, which in this country is usuallly what we seem to do at even a higher cost.

    (6) 10 Total Votes - 8 up - 2 down

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