Pacific Swell

Southern California environment news and trends

Public Utilities Commission seeks input on opt-out fees for smart meter program

Southern California Edison's SmartConnect smart meters.
Southern California Edison's SmartConnect smart meters. sce.com (Southern California Edison)

California regulators want to know how investor-owned utilities should charge people who decide they don’t want “smart meters.” The PUC plans public hearings in several cities, including Los Angeles and San Clemente, to talk about opt-out fees.

Opponents of the program say the digital meters present health risks and invade home privacy by sending information to a utility. Some argue that electro-magnetic fields and radio frequency exposure are heath hazards, but at best, scientific studies are inconclusive about whether smart meters or other EMF/RF devices cause illness. 

The dust critics have  kicked up already forced investor-owned utilities, including Southern California Edison, to let customers opt out of having smart meters. 

But it’s not free: People who opt out pay a 75-dollar fee and up to a 10-dollar monthly fee.

Now the California Public Utilities Commission is considering raising those fees. Pacific Gas & Electric has proposed nudging that initial fee up to $90, and the monthly fee to $15. PG&E wants to add a termination fee too, for customers who switch to smart meter service or terminate service at their address. 

The PUC is expected to vote on the smart meter fee proposal next month. This will not affect municipal utilities, which are overseen by the California Energy Commission. 

Edison's SmartConnect program pages include information about how to opt out of the program, too. 

Public hearings could be contentious affairs, though the utilities and regulators will not be making presentations, just listening to what people have to say. Activists call the opt-out fees "extortionate and punitive."

Hearings take place this Thursday in Bakersfield; Friday in Santa Barbara; next Monday in Los Angeles, and next Tuesday in San Clemente, with more information available at the CPUC's website

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