Protesters call for blockage of PG&E’s new SmartMeters in San Francisco 

A small group of protesters called on residents to block utility workers from installing PG&E’s new SmartMeters on Tuesday in the Marina district.

Police moved the group of about eight protesters away from a utility worker’s truck at the intersection of Avila and Prado streets about 10:15 a.m., but members continued canvassing the neighborhood with signs while shouting “Resist the SmartMeter” through a microphone and amplifier.

The digital meters, which are being installed at homes throughout The City, can be read at a distance through wireless technology and track energy usage at a far more detailed level than was previously possible.

Opponents argue that the energy-tracking devices emit low-frequency radiation, the bane of those who consider themselves extra-sensitive to electromagnetic fields.

Opponents also argue that the meters’ tabulation of energy use raises privacy issues. One protester, Sudi Scull of Bernal Heights, said she was concerned about PG&E’s tracking use of certain appliances, including Internet activity and even sex toys.

“They know what you’re using. I mean, what is it? A vibrator?” Scull asked rhetorically.

Protest leader November Alexis said she stood between the utility worker and his installation target at about 10 a.m. The worker stopped and called his boss, and then the police showed up in three cruisers to tell the protesters to go elsewhere. The group ended up on the corner of Beach Street and Cervantes Boulevard.

“Half the people don’t even know what SmartMeters are,” Alexis said, adding that she was feeling ill as a result of the Marina’s newly installed meters.

Nearly 40 people showed up at the California Public Utilities Commission meeting last week to speak out against the meters. The protesters in the Marina on Tuesday said they hope to get 100 people out to speak at the March 10 meeting.

PG&E spokesman Jeff Smith said residents in the Marina and Richmond districts were notified by mail of installations within a few weeks of when they began — a little more than a month ago — and that residents in other parts of The City will receive similar notifications.

The meters are designed to help facilitate smart-grid technology, Smith said. Information about energy use might be shared in bulk, but not in terms of specific individuals, Smith said.

“There is nothing more important to us than maintaining our customer privacy,” Smith said.

According to the PG&E website, SmartMeters have been installed more widely in San Mateo County, with 66 percent of planned units in place. San Francisco’s Smart-Meter installation is only 8 percent complete, with all planned meters expected to be in place by mid-2012.

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Dan Schreiber

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