Smart Meters on track for installation in San Francisco 

Among the things the new year will bring to San Francisco: SmartMeters.

In June, City Attorney Dennis Herrera’s office petitioned the California Public Utilities Commission to place a moratorium on SmartMeters until concerns about the devices’ accuracy could be better addressed.

However, a state regulatory board rejected a petition by The City last month to halt the installation of the controversial technology, clearing the way for PG&E to begin a widespread SmartMeter installation in San Francisco this year.

The new technology wirelessly communicates gas- and electricity-usage information to customers and PG&E, eliminating the need for the army of employees that checks meters each month. Since PG&E began installing the meters elsewhere in the state, it has received hundreds of complaints about accuracy and the potential impact on health.

San Francisco was joined by Santa Cruz County and a handful of cities in the campaign to halt the installations. Herrera’s office said PG&E itself had reported it had installed SmartMeters incorrectly and was having data-storage and other technical problems with the devices.

But in a Dec. 17 decision, the California Public Utilities Commission board denied the petition because it “fails to present new facts that justify the request to suspend” the program. The decision said The City had failed to present facts proving SmartMeters generate less-accurate bills than the old meters.

“We think they missed an important opportunity to address public concerns in a way that could have restored consumer confidence in SmartMeters,” said Matt Dorsey, Herrera’s spokesman. “Instead of addressing these concerns, CPUC effectively rubber-stamped the program.”

PG&E spokesman Paul Moreno said a handful of SmartMeters have already been installed in San Francisco to replace broken meters, but the company plans to systematically deploy the new technology this year and in 2012.

Asked to comment on the CPUC’s rejection of the moratorium, Moreno said, “The decision speaks for itself.”

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Katie Worth

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