SCE: City Council told new wireless smart meters are safe

February 29, 2012
Santa Paula City Council

Letters regarding smart meter installations were on the verge of being mailed to more than 180,000 Ventura County customers, Nancy Williams, Southern California Region manager for Southern California Edison, told the City Council at the February 21 meeting.

The so-called smart meters will replace electric meters for customers in Santa Paula, Oak View, Oxnard, Camarillo, and portions of Moorpark and Fillmore. 

Eventually all Edison customers will have the new meters, which Edison promises will offer new conveniences including tracking 24-hour energy consumption and notification that a household use goal has been reached. 

Williams noted she updates the council on issues related to energy on an annual basis, and the subject of the meeting’s presentation was centered on smart meters.

“They’re here” and customers are being notified, although Williams told the council there is a mechanism to opt out of the new technology. “What the deployment will look like” includes an aggressive outreach campaign in English and Spanish via postcards, and a website that includes videos on the new meters.

In addition, customers can call Southern California Edison. “We have any kind of information you may want; it’s a really user friendly outreach system.”

The new wireless meters are “driven by two things... as we move forward it’s also going to allow system restoration time a lot quicker,” due to its streamlined electrical power grid. “But the biggest driver” is users will be able to closely track usage and better be able to balance power needs with more expensive peak times.

In the initial communication Edison has included a picture of the contractor’s logo, as well as how they will be identified: “They won’t be jumping the fence.” And if the contractor cannot reach the old meter for smart meter replacement, a door hanger will be left for the household with information on how to make an appointment.

The council requested that a presentation be made on smart meters after a resident said she feared the technology was harmful to humans, the environment and bees. Williams said evidence shows the meters are safe, and studies cited by the speaker are not applicable.

“People have sincere concerns,” but the author of a German study cited by smart meter critics has “emphatically denied” a relationship to the bee colony collapse issue. But, noted Williams, customers can request that the installation of smart meters be delayed.

Customers can even opt out of the program, but it would carry a cost: “We’re hoping to have a decision” by the Public Utilities Commission on final costs, but another state utility charged customers $75 up front and then $10 monthly to forego smart meters. Williams said those of low income would probably be charged $10 initially, and then $5 a month for an SCE opt out option. 

Residents not wanting to have the new meters installed can put their names on a delay list, Williams said, by calling 800-810-2369. Spanish speakers can call 800-477-4455.

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