SAN FRANCISCO (CBS/AP) – Pacific Gas and Electric Co. is proposing to allow residents to switch off the wireless signals on their utility meters for a fee, but opponents of the devices aren’t satisfied.

PG&E has submitted a proposal that would charge customers an up front fee, plus monthly fees and an exit fee, for customers who want to opt out of the utility’s SmartMeter program.

The company submitted its proposal on Thursday to the California Public Utilities Commission in response to a March 10 order from the commission’s president requiring PG&E to provide options for residents with concerns about the SmartMeters.

Opponents of the wireless devices, which are meant to reduce energy consumption by monitoring utility use and transmitting the information in real time, argue the radio frequency waves emitted by the meters are detrimental to their health.

PG&E’s proposal would give customers the option of having PG&E turn off or disable the radios inside their SmartMeters, which would eliminate the radio frequency, according to company.

KCBS’ Barbara Taylor Reports:

The utility proposed charging $135 to $270 up front to have an employee turn off the meters, plus a $14 to $20 monthly fee to keep it off. Customers could choose to pay a per-kilowatt-hour fee instead of the fixed monthly fee.

PG&E would also charge customers an exit fee when they terminate service so future customers could use the SmartMeters.

The utility estimated that about 145,800 customers could choose to have the meters turned off over the next two years, causing an estimated $84.4 million in capital costs and expenses.

The costs include sending personnel to turn off the meters, sending meter readers to manually check the modified meters every month, and upgrading the rest of the SmartMeter radio frequency network to compensate for any network degradation caused by the turned-off radios.

Customers can also ask to have their SmartMeters moved to different locations on their property at estimated costs of $2,500 to $4,500 for overhead-meter customers and $6,000 to $11,000 for underground customers.

As of March 1, the utility had installed 7.7 million gas and

electric SmartMeters, which it says only transmit radio waves for milliseconds at a time and for very short durations.

The company estimates exposure to the low-frequency waves total about 45 seconds every 24 hours – much less than cell phones and microwave ovens.

Some residents remain skeptical of PG&E’s estimates, though, and say a more thorough independent review should be done before the SmartMeters are thrust upon them.

Speakers packed a CPUC meeting in San Francisco on Thursday and described health conditions they and their loved ones had suffered since the SmartMeters were installed. Many called the proposed charges a form of extortion.

“I shouldn’t have to pay more for the right to opt out of irradiation,” Petaluma resident Dana Davis said before details of the proposed fee structure had been released.

Davis said she didn’t have a SmartMeter and didn’t want one, while other residents described experiencing migraines, heart palpitations, and sleep problems after receiving the devices.

Some speakers questioned the effectiveness of the proposed opt-out program in reducing radiation given that other meters would be modified to compensate for those that had been disabled.

The National Cancer Institute has not found conclusive evidence that radio frequency radiation is associated with risks of developing cancer.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. Wire services may have contributed to this report.)

Comments (20)
  1. Trudy Sanders says:

    I have never heard such utter bull**** in my entire life !!


  2. Ron says:

    what a fu ing JOKE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  3. Ron says:

    Look if PG&E gives back a percentage to the school districs / police departments i might agree why should a money rich compnay the already killed people last year should even have the balls to decide this option I DONT REMEMBER AGREEING TO THESE SMART METTERS WHO IS PG& E THE MAFIA ???? OR HITLERS DISTANT COUSINS !

  4. ronnie says:

    This is bulls—tl!! Consumers should have freedom of choice and not be bullied by our utility company! I thought this was a free country!

  5. Shawn OKeefe says:

    i think that I’m in trouble!!! My living room is sitting over 9 smart meters, yes that’s 9. Any ideas on what to do? I see people complaing about 1 or 2 meters and think they have nothing compared to me. Our couch sits right over the 9 of them.

  6. Rydogg says:

    Right on PG&E, I love em. The Smart Meter keeps them from going in my back yard now. (they can read it from the street). GREATEST Idea ever. They heat my home, power my PC and heat my food. Couldn’t live with out them. Keep up the good work.

    1. stanley says:

      Yeah they will know exactly when you are using grow lights on your marijuana or turn your thermostat/ac down/off when they want or use you as a neighborhood bad guy or gal because your consumption is too high compared to your neighbor(s). All your electronics will have chips that talk to the national grid. Smart meters are the beginning of a national grid used to monitor and control the people. Use your head this is big brother!

  7. Mark says:

    M***er f***ing a**holes can suck me dry. Go to Russia if you want to do business this way, you communist b***ards!!!!!

  8. james says:

    The old meters I had worked just fine, NOBODY asked me to change them. Why should I have to pay to ‘opt-out’???

    The CPUS will side with PG &E as they are in each others back pocket!

  9. james says:

    USE a rock – then it won’t transmit anymore if it is broken – then PG &E can come out and put the ‘old one’ back in

  10. Ken Riley says:

    You whiners are around broadcast frequencies everyday. You’re typing on your smart phone or computer. You use a Microwave and cell phones. You use the fast track toll collection system. AM, FM radio and Satellite tv signals travel all day through the air. The 120volt AC power that comes into your home generates radiated emission frequencies. Everything that uses power emits some type of frequency. Take off your aluminum foil hats and panties and accept it.

  11. Sergio says:

    Ken you are right that we are exposed to frequencies everyday. The key difference here is that we make the choice to use our laptops, smart phones, etc whereas PGE explicitly made the choice for us. I have a smart meter outside my house and I don’t feel any change in my health. There has not been any conclusive studies that show side effects but if there ever are then PGE should be ready to hand out money in law suits just like Phillip Morris did. The fees are ridiculus and are just a way for the PGE to have it their way.

    1. Ken Riley says:

      You are correct about choice. You can choose to turn off your power. PGE is a private company that provides a service. They should not be told how they can deliver the power or what instruments they use to monitor it. Make your choice and sit in the dark. There are 1000 times more frequencies generated from the 120vac/60Hz power that comes into your home than the radio signal that you’re whining about. Make YOUR choice. Move out of state or sit in the dark. Don’t try to Over Regulate you cry baby liberal.

    2. Alan says:

      Sergio, when your next door neighbor fires up his computer, uses his wireless router, cooks something in his microwave oven, makes a call on his wireless telephone or his cell phone, and when TV stations you don’t watch and radio stations you don’t listen to are broadcasting their signals all over the area, you don’t have a say in it either. So why don’t you run next door and shut off your neighbor’s power, blow up all the microwave antenna arrays in town, plus the TV/radio broadcast towers. Oh, and don’t forget to go into an underground bunker when you’re all done – the cosmic and gamma rays constantly raining down on us from the heavens are far more powerful than anything man made!

  12. Sergio says:

    Ken I am not a liberal. I guess it makes you feel good to label people.

  13. Alan says:

    Okay, Sergio, so you’re not a liberal. You’re still a cry baby, though.

  14. Walter says:

    I think we should have completion for Power companies. Like in Europe. You can switch a power companies and shop for prices. Like with any thing else. The problem would be solve. Yes, Alan you are right… PG&E delivers power like a postal worker delivers the mail (Car). Propane gets delivered with a Truck. They don’t have a other choice. It is not the green choice either. The sad thing is only with the smart meter we will lose more jobs and computer take over. Smart meter are not for us to safe on electricity. It saves PG&E a lot of money… they can cut jobs.

    1. Paul says:

      You’re right about them saving money BUT they could have saved more by not buying the smart meters and not paying for their installation by averaging customers bills for a 12 month period, charging that amount for 11 months (no meter checking) then in the 12th month , read the meter and make a adjustment with the customer. Send him a bill or a check.

  15. Oleg says:

    Cool stuff. When Americans talk about something complex they tend to miss the point entirely, just like Russians do. You and us are so much alike. Nobody asked a simple and evident question: what the hell is this fuss about “smart” meters and grids is all about? What’s the ultimate use of a meter or grid being “smart”? What are we talking about? The world is overloaded with useless gadgets and smart grids (in their present state) are just another form of gadget that can be sold to the Nation. Don’t let’s talk about energy savings, anyone WILL automatically change their ways, when they reach a certain point where their consummation of electricity becomes really too expensive. At the moment, we are talking about gadgets, very expensive and who knows how dangerous to health. Yes, you will have a meter, capable to switch your oven on and off depending on the current tariff for electricity, but who will be in the position to influence the tariffs themselves? What if one day the lowest possible tariff will be too expensive for your family budget to cook food?
    Ask yourself a simple question: why don’t power companies build new power plants? Fuel is getting scarce, nuclear is dangerous, renewables are costly and far less predictive. Therefore, the idea of SAVING energy naturally comes to their mind. But to what point can we SAVE energy? Nobody has calculated it.
    I tell you what, just don’t buy the gadgets you don’t need. Think twice before spending money on a new electrical fireplace. If it heats up in summer to 50 degrees Celsius in Summer in your state, think of moving Northwards, not of a new air conditioning system, it will not help. Don’t you people SEE things?

  16. Conformist says:

    What nobody seems to mention in any of these comments is why PG&E needs the smart meter capacity to collect and archive the exact electrical usage, time, amount, day, month, year, name, location, etc. That is a very disturbing prospect. Exactly what do they need all that for, and why is it archived indefinitely? They don’t tell you that part as evidenced by the lack of comments here. It is however a fact. And ultimately, who do they allow access to this information? Homeland Security? The Census? All maner of law enforcement? The IRS? This is never revealed unsurprisingly. All disturbing trends in America seem to have the same face – monitoring our every move.