CPUC: PG&E Smart Meter Opt Out Fees “Suspended”

Utility Lacks Authority to Force Smart Meters or Charge Fees to Keep Analog Meters

San Francisco, CA- Though PG&E’s arbitrary “deadline” of May 1st for signing up for their smart meter opt out program is fast approaching, the future of the charges is uncertain due to legal challenges and a series of procedural errors by both PG&E and the CPUC, who have failed to provide crucial documents to members of the public protesting the opt out policy, as required by law.  The regulatory agency has issued conflicting statements about the approval status of the policy, and has refused to divulge e-mail communications with PG&E about the issue, in violation of the CA Public Records Act.

Edward Hasbrouck, a San Francisco resident, grassroots activist and author of the travel book The Practical Nomad, submitted a protest in February against the legality of the opt out fees.  Mr. Hasbrouck’s protest is simple, but cuts to the heart of whether utilities like PG&E’s have a right to install a smart meter against the will of a homeowner and to charge a fee for retaining an analog meter.  Despite being required by law to serve Mr. Hasbrouck a copy of the PUC and PG&E responses, this never occurred.   Because of this “procedural error” PG&E’s Advice Letter containing the opt out policy has therefore been suspended, according to CPUC General Order 96-B 7.5.2.   This was confirmed in an e-mail dated April 20th from Elizabeth Dorman, Principal Counsel at CPUC’s Legal Division to Mr. Hasbrouck:

Legal Division has instructed Energy Division that the Advice Letter filing is suspended, and requested that they include such label on our website.

CPUC General Order 96-B 7.5.2 states:

For any advice letter that may not be deemed approved, suspension is automatic if disposition of the advice letter has not occurred by the end of the initial review period.

Because the CPUC’s disposition of the advice letter was invalid due to their failure to serve Mr. Hasbrouck, suspension (according to the CPUC’s own rules) is automatic.

But the CPUC’s Energy Division has disputed this, essentially saying that they made a ‘mistake’ and deserve a ‘do over.’ Meanwhile, PG&E operators have been telling customers that they will be charged starting May 1st, even though the policy has been suspended.  Critics of the utility accuse PG&E of fraud in asserting that the opt out fees are still valid, and working behind the scenes to obscure the suspension of the policy.

Reached by telephone today, Ms. Dorman agreed that there is no law mandating smart meter installation- and that the right to install a smart meter was “just an assumption” by the PUC and the utilities, and not based in law.

“CPUC’s legal division is correct- there is no law that says smart meters are mandatory” says Joshua Hart, Director of Santa Cruz County based Stop Smart Meters! “PG&E and the other utilities cannot legally charge a fee unless people actively agree to the charges.  It is all a bluff by the utility who are running from the reality that their smart meter program has been a full fledged debacle and is being rejected by the public.  Mr. Hasbrouck is asking some fairly inconvenient questions and the powers that be are attempting to silence him.”

The ‘opt out’ policy itself has been described by those close to the issue as being “half baked.”  No accommodation has been made for apartment dwellers, business owners, or to provide for community wide opt outs as requested by dozens of local governments throughout the state, and thousands of people who have complained directly to the agency of health impacts, fires, and higher bills.  Fifty-six cities and counties in CA have now gone on record as opposing the current installations.  The American Academy of Environmental Medicine has demanded that the CPUC halt smart meter installation immediately to protect the public’s health. (pdf)

Under State Utility Code, utilities may not charge extra to people to protect their safety and health.  Smart meters are threats to both according to scientific studies (pdf).

Code 328.2(b) states: “No customer should have to pay separate fees for utilizing services that protect public or customer safety.”

Code 453. (b)  states: “No public utility shall prejudice, disadvantage, or require different rates or deposit amounts from a person because of medical condition”

In accordance with the CPUC’s rules, Hasbrouck has requested that the full CPUC review the CPUC Energy Division’s mishandling of his protest and order that a formal proceeding be conducted to consider whether PG&E’s gas and electric delivery easements give the utility the right to install wireless telecommunications infrastructure on customer premises.

“If PG&E can put a base station for its mesh network on my gas or electric meter, without having to ask for permission from the owner of the building, does that mean AT&T has the right to add a cellphone antenna and transceiver to the telephone junction box on my wall, without permission and without having to pay for those rights?” Hasbrouck asks. He points out that Proposition J, enacted by San Francisco voters in 2007, set conditions for wireless network infrastructure on city streets that aren’t met by the mesh network bundled with PG&E’s “SmartMeters”.

Regardless of the status of the opt out fees, customers of PG&E are being urged to inform the utility of their choice to reject the smart meters by May 1st and to either protest the fees or write “paid under protest” on their check.   PG&E customers should call 1-866-743-0263 immediately to opt out.

Mr. Hasbrouck has covered this evolving issue on his website:

PG&E twists “SmartMeter” opt-out into involuntary opt-in to higher fees

CPUC withdraws approval of PG&E “SmartMeter” opt-out fees

PG&E “SmartMeter” opt-out fees are suspended

Contacts for further information:

Edward Hasbrouck:  415 824 0214

Elizabeth Dorman, CPUC Legal Division: 415.703.1415

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This entry was posted in California, Citizen rebellion, CPUC, Democracy, legal issues, PG&E, San Francisco, Smart Grid. Bookmark the permalink.

21 Responses to CPUC: PG&E Smart Meter Opt Out Fees “Suspended”

  1. Redi Kilowatt says:

    Good !
    I never opted in, so why should I be charged a fee for no services rendered ?

  2. Pingback: California PUC Suspends Smart Meter Opt Out Fees » Naperville Smart Meter Awareness

  3. Ron says:

    Latest update posted on Edward Hasbrouck’s website:

    “[Update: A journalist who contacted the CPUC for comment on this story was told by a different person in the CPUC Energy Division that the e-mail message reprinted above was in error, and that the PG&E Advice Letter is not suspended. I have received no further communication from Ms. Dorman or anyone else at the CPUC or PG&E, so I don't know whether this means that there is a difference of opinion within the CPUC staff, that the CPUC Energy Division is unwilling to accept or acknowledge the legal opinion of the CPUC Legal Division, that someone has changed their mind, or that the statements in Ms. Dorman's e-mail message to me really were (more) "mistakes".]

    • Ron says:

      Further update:

      “[Further update: On April 27th, I received a belated, incomplete response to my request for public CPUC records about my protest. It confirms that some CPUC staff think the PG&E Advice letter is not suspended, and is still in effect, but leaves unclear who, if anyone, speaks for the CPUC as an institution on this question. Among the missing records were any records of who was instructed to put what information, when, about the Advice Letter and/or my protest on the CPUC and/or PG&E Web sites or dockets.”

  4. Nina Widlund says:

    TODAY, April 26th, I was on the phone with a fellow that represented himself with the CPUC. He was very nice and open to questions and information. He told me the fees ($75 & $10) were legitimate and would be charged, even under protest. He also went on to say the $75 fee would be charged to those who still had their original analog (which is the case with our home).
    When asking him about a friend who has sent iback her Smartmeter and purchased her own analog, now PG&E was no longer billing her and was this legal. His response to this was, PG&E is not required to service or bill any meter unless it is their own. Also, they could at any time shut off her power at the street and she could find her utilities provider elsewhere. When I went on to ask what other companies provide utilities- he said: “none”. At the point I asked: Isn’t that considered a monopoly? And honest to God, my phone went dead at that point!! I have a digital phone service and can not believe my phone would cut off at this exact moment.
    I have the man’s name and number at the CPUC and will call him back tomorrow.
    I understand he had just returned from vacation and may not have been up to date on his info, but still….
    If anyone of any position would like to address any of my comments I will check back.
    Nina Widlund Chico, CA

    • Dee Watson says:

      Very interesting! I also called the CPUC today and was instructed that the fees are not negotiable. I am opting out of the smart-meter and think it is rediculous that I have to “accept” these charges or run the risk of PG&E coming onto my property and installing a smart-meter without my permission. Makes me sick!

  5. Vin Towers says:

    PGE thought they would intimidate us with the $75 fee, but I opted out anyway- today! Let the rest or the population sleep if they want to. I will use my solar clothes drier to reduce my electric bill to off set the $10 monthly fee and eventually make back the $75 ridiculous origination fee.

    Do everything you can to easily use less power. We should all reduce our electric use to conserve and also reduce the PGE profits. That will bug them.

    Visit my solar clothes drier on YouTube. Search “Travels with Vin” on YouTube. Look for My efficient, simple, low cost, easy to instal and easy to use, “Solar Dryer”

    There is the standard “Solar Dryer” (cost less than $10) on one Video and the “Deluxe Solar Dryer” on another. They both work great. Choise the one that you like.

    Or on Google search for “Vin Towers”

  6. Dr. John Parker says:

    Time to just cut the cable. Put solar on the roof and tell PG&E “thanks for the memories”, adios.

  7. Scott Harvey says:

    Ah yes, put solar on the roof by all means, but freedom from smart meters for those with solar has just come to an end. We received the letter today from Pigs,Grunts and Exrement saying that smart meters are coming to solar. Happy days, tra la la effin la.

    • Redi Kilowatt says:

      Scott,
      There have been meters available for solar for decades, long before SmartMeters.
      They are advanced E6 TOU meters, they are digital and look like a SmartMeter, but were in use long before the SmartMeters were invented. Also, analog meters can measure the bi-directional flow of current.
      The SmartMeters being deployed now are not capable of measuring the bi-directional flow of current, and the radio smart grid is not capable of transmitting that data.
      Knowing PG&E, they will now put the word SmartMeter on the E6 digital meters, but those new meters still will be read manually because the radio smart grid does not work for that application.
      There are also other advanced meters that are able to measure the bi-directional flow of electricity, but they will need to be hooked up to a wired system to transmit the data to the utility, either on a traditional land telephone line with an analog modem, a DSL land line with modem, a broadband cable or fiber network. Also, there will be an additional $250 charge for any digital meter that is compatible with solar.
      If one has a solar system, the best option is to stick with a traditional analog meter, especially if one works from home and uses power during the day, with a digital E6 meter, you do get credit at a higher rate during the day for feeding power back to the grid . That is fine if nobody is home using power during those times, and when they get home from work they can use their power at a lower rate in the evening. But if one needs to use power during the day, they will also have to pay a higher rate (up to $1.20 per kilowatt/hour during the hours of 2:00 pm to 7:00 pm). Stick with the analog meter and you will save thousands of dollars on electricity costs

  8. Mike says:

    I opted out of the PG&E installed smart meter at my house before 1 May. They removed it and put in an analog meter. Just got my first bill and it was over $30 ($189) less than last year at the same time. For the past 2 years that I had the smart meter, my electric and gas averaged $400 per month over an entire year. I had many months where they charged me tier 3 pricing and my bill would be over $500 to $600 for a 2200 square foot house with just me and my wife. (My home was built in 2005) Before the smart meter was installed 2 years ago, my average would be about $250 per month. PG&E is a monopoly that no doubt pays officials in the CPUC hush money to let them keep ripping us off. Bernie Madoff would be proud of these guys.

  9. Lisa says:

    If you have a solar system, will PGE be charging opt out customers the fees, both initial and monthly? Anyone know the answer to this?

  10. Sasha says:

    Isn’t it interesting, how we keep gathering to the electrical co. They should be gathering to us. After all, if for what ever reason we decided as a community or city for that matter not to use electricity at all,where would they be then? We are allowing corporations to take control of government and resources. Even the politicians haven’t got a thing to say, or do they? All this nonsense of opt-outs and moratoriums, is like going down on our knees to say” please.” WE DON’T WANT THE SMART METERS. WORLD WIDE IT HAS NOW BEEN PROVEN THAT THEY ARE A HAZARD. HOW MUCH MORE PROOF DO THEY NEED??? THEY ONLY WANT CONTROL AND THEIR MONEY. So protect your rights in a few words .’DEMOCRACY’ AND THE FREEDOM TO CHOSE

  11. B. Scales says:

    Our solar panels were “subsidized” by Edison using our own tax dollars. It came with an 8-year sell-back (for dirt cheap) obligation until 2014 when we can unhook from Edison’s meter. Hmmm, if we’re cut off for opting out of both Smartmeters and fees, we’re rewarded by unhooking 2 years early as long as we install on-site batteries, which we plan on anyway. Go solar and say bye-bye grid!

  12. C Burkey says:

    Has our reliance on electricity and fossil fuels made us slaves?

  13. WAH says:

    I just tried to get them to remove my SmartMeters today, and they kept insisting that I would have to pay $75 up front and $10 per month to go back to the analog meters.

    The agent told me that if I object to the fees, that’s what the CPUC is for, and that I should contact them. She insisted they are not doing anything illegal and that she is “just doing [her] job”.

    I’m really confused about the situation. If the CPUC has said the fees are not OK and have been suspended, then why is PG&E still telling people they will be charged?

    I would really like to go with solar, but have no idea where to start.

    • Hey WAH,

      Don’t believe what the utility is telling you. Many people who have not allowed access and also not signed up for the opt out program are still sitting pretty with their analog meters and not being charged. Many people are also refusing to pay the extortion fees. But they somehow managed to slap one on your house. How rude. I bet they didn’t even ask your permission. Important thing is that you need to get that thing removed right away- tell them you demand that it be removed, and if they fail to comply- well it’s your house right?

      GREAT that you are interested in going off grid- it’s an adventure and very liberating. You can save money and not be at the mercy of these bullies. Here is a start about how to go utility free, safely: http://www.electricalpollution.com/OffgridSafely.html

      I’ve found that if you have a few solar panels, a couple of 12V marine batteries, and DC lights, and chargers for your laptop etc its fairly easy to do. You may not even need an inverter most of the time if you are willing to live without a whole set of major appliances.

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  15. Don (a solar generator) says:

    Those of us who have solar panels also have manual cut-offs of our solar generation. It seems to me , if we join together and collectively control that capability of supplying the grid or not especially in high demand times we may gain back some control. The buying of power from other sources during critical times may be very costly. Intermittant off and ons could be very disruptive. I hope you’re reading this PG&E.

  16. Mali says:

    Our smart meter was finally replaced with an analog meter and I just drafted a letter to contest the fees but I am not sure who to address it to. Does anyone know who contest letters should be sent to?

  17. superstar says:

    Yes there ARE devices in your home that are chipped and sending reports to PGE what you are using and when. Subcontractor showed up in our hood, snooping around and was told to get out. Neighbor saw him sneak onto our property and she again, to.d him to get out of the neighborhood. His response was I guess I’m not wanted around here.
    We have 1 sign below meter stating they are being recorded and they will be charged with trespassing to the fullest extent of the law. Other sign says No Smart Meter installation. My disabled partner is a senior with medical devices and his head is right next to where the meter would have been installed if not caught. Called main office, they refused to discuss if our landlord opted out and for her to call them. We also asked if subcontractors (a stranger jumping over our fence! Lucky the dogs didn’t maul him to bits!) had a list of properties not to go onto if on the opt out list. PGE operator said YES they are required to have addresses of opted out homes. So why did he try changing our meters if she was already opted out? Be more careful in rural areas btw!

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