On Nov. 20, a man from PG&E appeared at our door. He said our power would be off for a few minutes, and I should disconnect anything the interruption might damage.
I unplugged the computer and TV and went outside. He already had our old electric meter removed and was installing a new SmartMeter.
He was friendly in a gun-shy way, as though he’d had some unpleasant reactions from other customers.
A woman I know who lives in another part of Paso Robles had a SmartMeter installed several days earlier. She was angry that PG&E hadn’t asked permission. She also suspected it would increase her bill and endanger her health.
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The meter technician at our house said he’d already installed quite a few that morning. Ours didn’t take him much more than 10 minutes. I read in The Tribune that PG&E expects it’ll be the end of next year by the time SmartMeters are installed throughout the county. I guess he’s the only guy doing it.
That Tribune article also said County Supervisor Jim Patterson, of Atascadero, will bring up SmartMeters at Tuesday’s supervisors’ meeting. He wants the Board of Supervisors to ask the state Public Utilities Commission and our state senator and assemblyman to halt the SmartMeter installations. He doesn’t want the work restarted unless customers are offered an alternative.
He said county residents frequently complain to the supervisors that the SmartMeters might have health and fire risks and might be inaccurate.
I assume PG&E would answer that SmartMeters are more accurate than human meter readers. The SmartMeters automatically transmit each customer’s usage wirelessly to PG&E.
Some customers, however, fear the meter’s radio waves could hurt them. But I bet many of those customers use cell phones, wireless phones or Wi-Fi systems, which also transmit wirelessly.
PG&E, however, gives us reasons to distrust it, such as spending $40 million last year on unsuccessfully trying to pass Proposition 16.
The measure would have given PG&E a major competitive advantage over local public utilities.
Another reason for our distrust is the 30-inch PG&E gas pipeline in San Bruno that exploded Sept. 9, killing eight people and destroying 38 homes. PG&E said that when the pipeline was constructed in 1956, they probably used welded-together sections left from other projects. It also wasn’t adequately inspected, and it lacked automatic or remote-controlled shutoff valves.
So it wouldn’t hurt to have some qualified, impartial, third party reassure us that SmartMeters are smart for us.
Reach Phil Dirkx at firstname.lastname@example.org or 238-2372.