Municipal Companies Learning From PG&E's Mistakes
May 25, 2010 7:16 AM
As smart meters roll out to more households, privacy and pricing concerns have a few worried
The controversy surrounding the use of PG&E's smart meter technology remains extremely contentious. Unpopular by many home owners -- and the matter is still far from resolved.
PG&E has already installed more than 5 million smart gas and electric meters in the United States, with all 10 million customers expected to receive the new meters over the next two years.
If you haven't had one installed yet, you can expect a flyer in the mail from PG&E -- or Wellington Energy -- that the new technology is monitoring your gas and electricity use. Some home owners complained their power bills have increased, with concern the smart meters are faulty, or PG&E is intentionally overcharging.
The City of Alameda, which offers PG&E and the Alameda Municipal Power (AMP) service, expects AMP to be transparent with its use of smart meters. AMP is a city-operated municipal company, and is accountable to the citizens and its 35,000 subscribers.
"PG&E also received an order from the State Public Utilities Commission to make public the information regarding SmartMeter performance, which was being held as confidential," DailyTech was told by Frank Matarrese,
City of Alameda Councilman and Mayoral Candidate
. "There is a lot of concern regarding accuracy of billing. I am urging everyone to keep close track of the PG&E billing history (we don't have say over gas meters in town, except in matters of building code) and AMP as well for an eventual change over."
To help prevent the issues PG&E has encountered already, both the City of Alameda AMP have a type of fail-safe plan ready.
"AMP and our Public Utility Board have, at the PBU's direction, taken a 'second mover' position regarding SmartMeters. Over the next 18 months, AMP will review, research and track issues that come up as the 'first movers,' PG&E, et al, implement with their rate payers. Over the next three years, AMP will be working on its transmission and distribution system to make sure it too will be ready once all the bugs are worked out."
Furthermore, AMP may use consultants before a wide-scale rollout of smart meters, which PG&E elected not to do -- until it was caught installing faulty units.
"I expect that consultants will be contracted to help with the conversion to SmartMeters. Given the high level of concern over this change, starting with the change from manual reading to electronic reading, I am sure that our PUB will be looking for operational audits as well as financial audits to ensure accuracy odf use and billing. The fact that we have a resident board (PUB) and AMP is a resident-owned utility give us a big advantage over large utilities like PG&E."
If you're in line to possibly have a smart meter installed at your home, go ahead and do as much research as you can. Contact the utilities company and city officials to make sure any and all potential problems are resolved before you have to possibly clean up the mess.
"Mac OS X is like living in a farmhouse in the country with no locks, and Windows is living in a house with bars on the windows in the bad part of town." -- Charlie Miller
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