Customer complaints about Smart Meters must be heard. TURN recommends the following steps to restore public confidence in smart meter technology.
500 Bakersfield and Fresno residents attended five-hour smart meters hearings sponsored by Senator Dean Florez on Monday, October 5 and 21. Sixty residents testified that after smart meter installation, their monthly bills were the highest ever received, even while on vacation or after installing energy efficiency measures.
TURN has received over 100 smart meter complaints from Northern California. While most of the complaints were from Bakersfield, others were from Fresno, Calaveras, and other counties in which PG&E has installed smart meters.
A pattern of PG&E smart meter billing which was erratic and difficult to explain, was uncovered during a week-long field visit to Bakersfield by TURN staff to conduct in-person interviews and detailed reviews of individual billing records.
TURN recommendations to address the PG&E smart meter crisis:
The CPUC letter of October 14, which orders independent testing of PG&E smart meters, represents an important step in resolving the smart meter crisis. TURN recommends the following steps to restore public confidence in smart meter technology.
1) Expand representation on the Independent Oversight Committee, which consists of the CPUC Energy Division and the Division of Ratepayer Advocates, to include representation from local residents, local elected officials, and TURN.
- It is important to include key parties from outside of the CPUC to participate in the selection of the third party smart meter expert, the design of the investigation, and to vouch for the integrity of the process, findings, and remedies.
- The investigation should include a thorough review of customer accounts, customer interviews, comparisons of customer usage in hot weather locales that still utilize electro-mechanical meters, and every component of the Advanced Metering Infrastructure—i.e. smart meter calibration and accuracy, transmission of data, disaggregation of data, PG&E information technology systems, and billing software.
- The investigation should advertise that it will conduct individual bill analysis, smart meter inspections, and customer interviews upon request of any customer who believes that their smart meters are providing inaccurate usage or billing data.
2) Impose an immediate statewide moratorium on smart meter installation until the independent investigation is complete, and remedies implemented.
- Assign all costs of conducting this investigation and delaying contracts for smart meter installation, upon PG&E shareholders, rather than ratepayers.
3) Assign smart meter replacements costs to PG&E shareholders, instead of ratepayers, should the smart meters be replaced with more technologically advanced models, or if they need to be repaired or replaced—before 2028.
- PG&E ratepayers already face paying off $2.2 billion of investments in two generations of smart meters in less than two years, and rates will be higher for decades as a result.
- The smart meters should last for as long as promised by PG&E, and if not, the costs for replacing or upgrading them should be borne by shareholders.
4) Reject/minimize future rate increases, which will lead to even higher bills for customers in Bakersfield, Fresno, and the rest of PG&E territory
- Insist that the CPUC include Bakersfield, Fresno, and any other location where 50 residents sign a request, as a Public Participation Hearing sites for the requested nearly $4 billion increase (cumulative over the rate case cycle 2011-2013) filed by PG&E in their 2011 General Rate Case.
- Urge the CPUC to reject/minimize current PG&E rate increase requests.
5) Urge the CPUC to review the calculation of baselines and consider the adoption of special rate assistance for retired/stay-at-home seniors, similar to the FERA program (which provides Tier 3 usage at tier 2 rates).