The president of the California Public Utilities Commission is calling on PG&E to create an alternative to SmartMeters for customers who say they are getting sick from the low-frequency radio waves emitted by the wireless technology.
On Thursday, Commissioner Michael Peevey gave PG&E two weeks to come up with the alternative, which would be offered at a "reasonable cost."
"I think it’s clear the time has come for some kind of movement in the direction of customer opt-outs," Peevey said in a statement.
Some SmartMeter opponents — who believe people suffering from "electrosensitivity" are getting headaches, nausea and other ailments from the wireless radio waves — say the proposal is too little too late.
"It goes to show the slow trigger on this, that they didn’t do anything earlier," said Deborah Tavares, who runs a website called RefuseSmartMeters.com. "How quickly are they going to take off the meters of people who are already sick?"
PG&E maintains that the gas-and-electricity meters are safe and will provide valuable information in the future for energy savings. The CPUC approved PG&E’s plan to install SmartMeters in 2006, and although a health probe was encouraged by the agency’s consumer advocacy office in November, the commission decided in December not to delay installation.
A little more than one-tenth of San Francisco’s planned installations have been completed, according to the company, and most current work is being done in the Richmond and Marina districts. A small group of protesters physically blocked installations last week in the Marina.
PG&E officials said the utility hasn’t determined the gritty details of an opt-out situation, or whether renters will have the same options as property owners, but the company is prepared to have an offer worked out for customers by March 24. Meanwhile, installations in The City will continue as planned.
"We have been examining alternatives in the past few months in anticipation of this," PG&E spokesman Paul Moreno said of Thursday’s announcement. "As of today, we’re still deploying."