A county supervisor wants to temporarily suspend the installation of so-called SmartMeters until PG&E answers questions about their safety, cost and impact on privacy.
Jim Patterson will ask his colleagues next week to send a letter to the California Public Utilities Commission as well as PG&E expressing concerns about the meters and asking for the halt. The CPUC regulates utilities.
If it is sent, the letter also will go to state Sen. Sam Blakeslee and Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian, both Republicans representing San Luis Obispo County in the Legislature.
Patterson may or may not get the three votes he needs on his letter, however. Board Chairman Adam Hill told The Tribune on Tuesday that he wants to send a letter expressing concerns, but he fell short of asking that the SmartMeter installations be halted.
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Hill said he would study the letter’s wording and listen to an expected discussion Tuesday.
Patterson’s proposed letter calls on the CPUC to “take immediate action to order PG&E to suspend installation of the wireless SmartMeters until such time as the consumer is given a choice of having an alternative.”
It also alludes to “numerous complaints and expressions of concern” the board has received regarding health issues, “accuracy, loss of privacy, security, risk of fire and damage to in-home electrical appliances.”
The proposed letter is on the board’s consent calendar, which holds noncontroversial items that the supervisors do not intend to discuss. However, any supervisor can pull an item and talk about it, and SmartMeters seem almost certain to fall into that category.
SmartMeters have become controversial nationwide, and several government bodies in California and elsewhere have asked for a thorough investigation of their effects. So have many residents of San Luis Obispo County, who have expressed concerns almost weekly to the Board of Supervisors.
Some have said they worry about the new meters causing energy costs to rise, while others say the meters give off dangerous radio waves and adversely affect other household appliances.
One speaker Tuesday, asking for a moratorium, said, “I’m not sure they’re so smart.”
Some 2,000 people in California have complained of health issues arising from SmartMeters, according to the Los Angeles Daily News.
Meant to conserve energy, the meters are called “smart” because they track electricity and gas use and wirelessly transmit data to utilities. They give an hourly reading on energy use — information that is available to the homeowner, who can adjust the use accordingly.
The meters are part of a nationwide effort to upgrade the energy grid, which provides the means by which people can turn on their lights, computers, dishwashers and other appliances and generally function in the 21st century.
PG&E has begun installing the meters in Paso Robles and Atascadero, and it says it expects to have them in thousands of homes throughout the county by the end of 2012.
Hill noted that the county has no regulatory authority over PG&E, and the most the supervisors can do is express their concerns.The county will not pass a moratorium, he said, because it would have no legal effect.