California regulators approved a plan Thursday allowing Pacific Gas & Electric Co. to charge its customers slightly more for electricity to make up for profits lost when SmartMeters were installed.
Three of four members of the California Public Utilities Commission approved the proposal, which will give PG&E shareholders a 6.3 percent rate of return on their original investment in the company's old, analog electricity meters over the next six years.
The company's shareholders needed to be compensated because the old meters were pulled out of homes and businesses years before their useful life was up, PG&E President Michael Peevey said.
Residential customers with an average monthly bill of $90 will see about a 9 cent increase as a result, and the total cost for ratepayers will be about $104 million, commission spokeswoman Terrie Prosper said.
Dozens of people and advocacy groups testified at the commission meeting saying exposure to radio frequencies and radiation from the wireless devices is harming people's health.
SmartMeters are safe and will bring down the company's costs for meter reading, PG&E spokeswoman Christine Cordner said Thursday. In the long term the utility plans to offer customers pricing plans that could help them lower their electricity bills, she said.
Commissioner Mike Florio, who abstained from the vote, reiterated some of consumers' questions about whether the SmartMeters take an accurate read of their electricity usage and result in correct bills.
The plan approved Thursday is part of a broader settlement that also will require PG&E to update officials on crucial safety work done on its natural gas pipelines in the wake of the deadly pipeline explosion in San Bruno, which killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes.
PG&E will be required to file semi-annual reports over the next three years showing which pipelines the company is replacing and which lines are most high risk, and also will have to spell out its justifications for its annual budgets and strategic plans.