PG&E starting to install smart meters in San Luis Obispo County

Smart meters are moving in to Paso Robles and should be in homes throughout the entire county by the end of 2012, according to PG&E.

“We just really have started in San Luis Obispo County,” said Paul Moreno, a PG&E spokesman in Chico. He did not have a county-wide number of upcoming meter installations, but a city-by-city breakdown shows at least 113,000.

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.

Smart meters are meant to conserve energy. They are called “smart” because they track electricity and gas use and wirelessly transmit data to utilities. They give an hourly read on energy use, information that is available to the homeowner, who can adjust his use accordingly.

However, the automated system eliminates meter readers.

Throwing meter readers out of a job in the current down economy is one of several controversies surrounding smart meter installation.

Moreno said 80 percent of the company’s meter readers have been moved to other jobs at PG&E. He added that the company has been phasing them out by using temps.

The savings from not sending out readers and their trucks will be passed along to customers, Moreno said.

There have been other complaints about smart meters, including the allegation that they give off dangerous radio waves. While the utility pooh-poohs this allegation, 2,000 people have complained of health issues arising from smart meters, and some communities have halted their installation, according to the Los Angeles Daily News.

Moreno said customers with questions should call the 24-hour “Smart meter” hotline at 1-866-743-0263