Controversial Smart Meters Arrive in Bay Area

Horror stories include bill increases and threats to shut off power

By Jackson West
|  Friday, Nov 13, 2009  |  Updated 3:00 PM PDT
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Controversial Smart Meters Arrive in Bay Area

Michale Coté

New SmartMeters like these may be more efficient over all, but rates pegged to market demand may give some customers a nasty surprise.

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Concord and Walnut Creek residents are currently getting new SmartMeters from Pacific Gas & Electric -- whether they like it or not.

Silicon Valley is next on the list to get the new meters, which are connected to a data network as well as the power grid and in theory can provide more accurate measure of electrical use.

However, residents in Southern California who have already received them are complaining about spikes in utility bills.

One Menlo Park resident, concerned about his electricity usage data becoming public, tried to stop PG&E from installing the new device. He complained of being threatened by the utility company until he allowed the new meter to be installed.

Then? He was re-billed for months he'd already paid, and when he complained, his power was shut off.

The California Public Utilities Commission is in the process of having an independent audit of the meters' accuracy, and consumer advocacy groups are asking the state to impose a moratorium on installations until the accuracy of the new devices is tested.

Jackson West recognizing the need to upgrade the power grid, but doesn't trust PG&E not to screw ratepayers in the process.

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