SANTA ROSA (CBS 5) – It has been two years since Pacific Gas & Electric first installed SmartMeters in the Bay Area, and CBS 5 is still hearing complaints from viewers about overcharges. But one North Bay couple’s billing issues have nothing to do with technology.

Raphael Kauffman and his wife Sarah were in shock when they got their August 2010 PG&E bill. Five months after SmartMeters were installed in their Santa Rosa home, they received a bill for $1,500.

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Spokesperson Paul Moreno admitted there was an error and corrected the bill within one week. But Moreno said it was unrelated to the accuracy of the SmartMeter. Instead, it was due to the meter being read improperly.

Moreno acknowledged the Kauffman’s SmartMeter was read on location by a PG&E technician and not remotely as intended. This came as a surprise to Raphael Kauffman who thought SmartMeters were supposed to be read remotely.

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PG&E said the utility reads SmartMeters manually for the first 60-90 days. But in the case of the Kauffman’s, their meters have been read manually for five months.

SmartMeter critics such as Mark Toney of TURN (The Utility Reform Network) say that is proof the meters aren’t ready for prime time. Toney said SmartMeters are supposed to work immediately and the reason they’re not being read remotely is because the SmartMeter communications network has not been properly established by PG&E.

Toney also said PG&E hasn’t complied with industry standards which say the communications system should be implemented first, before installing SmartMeters. According to Toney, that is one of the reasons PG&E continues losing the public relations battle with customers who are confused and resistant to the meters.

PG&E spokesperson Moreno said the company continues to monitor Smart Meters remotely while they are being read manually and that it is part of the process of providing accurate information for their customers. As for the Kauffman’s, they are hoping PG&E does not have a repeat billing mistake when the company starts reading their Smart Meters remotely.

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