Enabling Customers to Make Smarter Energy Choices
PG&E is dedicated to providing the best service possible using innovative and proven strategies. That is why we are implementing our SmartMeter™ program, installing an automated gas and electric metering system for all of our customers through 2012. In 2009, PG&E's SmartMeter™ program became the largest deployment of automated metering infrastructure in North America.
This new system enables us to improve the way we obtain meter readings. It will also provide new features and tools to help customers see how and when they use energy and to better manage their energy use to potentially conserve or shift usage away from "peak" periods. When many individuals conserve or shift their energy use, the results can include decreased pressure on the power grid, less need to build new power plants and reduced greenhouse gas emissions. We are also working to leverage the SmartMeter™ system to pinpoint power outages and restore service to our customers faster after an outage.
The SmartMeter™ system is part of a statewide effort approved by the CPUC to upgrade California's energy infrastructure with automated metering technology. More than 76 million meters around the world today use SmartMeter™ technology.
Despite the numerous customer and environmental benefits of SmartMeter™ technology, PG&E's deployment of these devices faced challenges in 2009. Some customers in the San Joaquin Valley area raised concerns about whether their new meters had caused increases in their monthly energy bills. PG&E is deeply committed to excellent customer service and takes all customer concerns seriously.
A number of factors contributed to the perceived connection between SmartMeter™ devices and bill increases, although not every one of these factors impacted every customer the same way. These factors included previously-scheduled rate-increases; a slow-down in some customers' original (non-SmartMeter™) meters; some customers' not recertifying for PG&E's California Alternative Rates for Energy (CARE) program, which authorizes reduced rates for low-income customers; and an increased number of extremely hot days during the month of July.
PG&E responded to these customer concerns with a comprehensive customer education initiative that continues today. In the summer of 2009, PG&E opened "answer centers" for all Bakersfield and Fresno area customers who had questions about their energy bills and PG&E's SmartMeter™ program. Among other efforts, PG&E also launched customer advisory panels in the area and undertook several initiatives to meet with and inform our customers about SmartMeter™ technology and benefits. In addition, PG&E has recently re-initiated side-by-side meter tests to demonstrate to customers that their SmartMeter™ devices are operating accurately.
PG&E is committed to ensuring the accurate measurement of our customers' energy use. We use an ongoing quality assurance process for all of our SmartMeter™ devices to ensure they are properly measuring energy use. If a customer contacts PG&E with a complaint, we will send a technician out to check the meter. Additionally, we welcome the CPUC's independent evaluation of PG&E's SmartMeter™ program to provide additional verification of the accuracy of SmartMeter™ technology—including the meters, the communications system and PG&E's billing software—for our customers' reassurance.
We recognize that this undertaking represents a major evolution in the way that our customers will perceive and manage their energy use. As we move forward, we will continue to incorporate what we have learned and work with our customers, regulators, suppliers and other important stakeholders to build a smarter energy future.