“Smart” Meters to Blame in East Palo Alto Power Surge?

KTVU Reporter on the scene in E. Palo Alto where 'smart' meters popped on Aug.25.

Reports were coming in yesterday of a major power surge that left more than 200 without electricity and burned out appliances and wiring in East Palo Alto, a low income community in the San Francisco Bay Area.  Many of the affected homes were in apartment buildings, where clusters of the new wireless meters have recently been installed.

The power outage affected 10 blocks and started after 9 pm Thursday night, with
400 volts of electricity surging through homes, rather than the usual 110 volts, according to PG&E.  Residents reported loud bangs, pops, glass shattering, TVs blowing up, lines sparking, smoke, lightbulbs exploding, and other electrical problems.

PG&E tried to blame it on the trees, but fire officials warned residents not to turn their electricity on until the smart meters are inspected.

Now no one is sure what caused this incident- let’s make sure we don’t jump to conclusions here, but new readers on this site should be aware that ‘smart’ meters are not UL certified, have been linked with numerous fires and electrical explosions, and that a fire that burned the Santa Rosa Mall in April appears to have been caused by ‘smart’ meters and then covered up by PG&E.  Whistleblowers who worked for Wellington Energy- PG&E’s ‘smart’ meter contractor- have alleged unsafe installations that have led to arcing, which certainly could have caused this incident.

If anyone has further information about this incident, please post it below in the comments section.

Update Tuesday Aug. 30th 4:30pm:  We obtained a copy of the fire incident report from the Menlo Park Fire Dept. (that serves E. Palo Alto)- it states:

“Received alarm as smoke & flame from electrical box.
On arrival Eng. 5 personnel met with PR he stated that PG&E power lines (&) house meters popped.”

KTVU TV coverage here.

Palo Alto Online Coverage here.


This entry was posted in Class Issues and Social Equality, CPUC, Dirty Electricity, PG&E, Safety. Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to “Smart” Meters to Blame in East Palo Alto Power Surge?

  1. Jim says:

    This WOULD NOT happen with the old mechanical meters. They would just pass the voltage on into the home and not “blow” because they don’t have sensitive internal electronic components or a power supply, other than a small coil that magnetically turns the little dial.

    The old meters are super reliable and have handled surges for many years.

    This could also happen if someone “cracked” the radio operated remote turn off codes for a block or two, then started turning all the meters on and off, on, off, over and over all at once. You could create a surge and cause problems for the entire grid and town.

    It’s pretty obvious even for low level technical people that this is possible.

    This is a clear danger for the community and has to be stopped. The power company knows this, their engineers knew this is possible BEFORE the PUC meetings to approve this, ANYONE with any sense knows that computerized things get hacked, and the CPU in these meters is way less powerful than a home PC and so can’t protect itself as good.

    Plus, with millions of these installed, and all of them being the same EXACT SOFTWARE and hardware configuration, you are just painting a big HUGE target on your town.

    Really stupid.

  2. Redi Kilowatt says:

    Great post Jim.
    I saw on the news a PG&E employee explaining how a tree branch caused 400 volts to be delivered to a 220 volt line that serves residences. That sounds very fishy to me.
    First, the primary distribution wires at the top are about 5000 volts and up to 15 Kv in some areas. those are called the primary conductors, sometimes un-insulated unless they are swung near trees, then they use insulated conductors called ” tree wire”.
    The primary conductors feed the step-down transformers that reduce the voltage down to what we call line voltage, 240 volts, we also consider anything under 500 volts as being low voltage. In industrial areas, they have 3 phase power, some of that is 277/480 volts. All the service conductors to all buildings, commercial, multi-family (apartment/condo, town homes) or single family houses are fully insulated.
    There is absolutely now way that a primary 5000 volt conductor could be knocked down by a tree and deliver exactly 400 volts to all the secondary conductors in any area. Something as catastrophic as that had to have been caused by human error or mechanical failure.
    It may or not be the fault of the new AMI meters, but no doubt that PG&E screwed up AGAIN and is lying to the public AGAIN.

  3. SOS Florida says:

    Citizens of Lakeland, FL report the following comments voiced by city officials and/or utility authorities at a recent public meeting:

    ****”How many degrees do you have?”
    ****”We thought your signs were cute.”
    ****”We don’t need UL approval, we exceed it.”
    We must remember that the Constitution is alive but under attack. We must also hold our elected official’s feet to the fire! What kind of country are we becoming?

  4. Redi Kilowatt says:

    I just saw on KTVU channel 2 news a segment about the power surge in East Palo Alto.
    They reported that 80 new smart meters caught fire and burnt up.
    They also reported that PG&E claims that analog meters can be damaged also from voltage surges.
    I remember when that event first happened, there was a spokesman from PG&E on TV explaining that what happened was caused by a 400 volt surge. I knew that was another lie from a PG&E employee. In another news article I read that PG&E recanted the 400 volts story and now says it was a surge of 4000 volts.
    There is no possible way that the new meters could ever cause a power surge on the power grid, it had to be a primary distribution line (usually 5000 volts) making contact with a secondary line .
    Now, Palo Alto is going to look into the safety of the new meters, and may consider banning them.
    The electric meters are connected to the power grid, but cannot control the power grid in any way, it’s “you get what we give you” , and the meters whether analog or digital have no overcurrent or over voltage protection.
    The new meters are just an interface that provide usage data to the mesh network and the proprietary radio network or mobile phone that collect and relay the information to the central controllers at PG&E. The meters themselves do not control anything inside of a building, but some of the new meters have a motorized disconnect switch that is capable of disconnecting the power in to the meter, this command comes from the communications radio network, not a powerline carrier from the grid.
    So, the only thing that will ever be controlled inside a private building will be the new smart thermostats that are voluntary, not mandatory. These commands to thermostats will come from a radio network, not the power grid. And the commands will only turn on or off the 24 volt relay for compressor motors on air conditioning units only, nothing else like fans or heating that are also controlled by the thermostat.

    • Ron says:


      Many of us would like to see the KTVU Channel 2 news segment about the power surge in East Palo Alto that you saw yesterday morning, September 5. Up to 80 fried meters now? A search for that piece comes up with nothing. To reiterate Josh’s request, can you please document your source?

      • http://www.ktvu.com/video/28986639/index.html

        Clearly states in KTVU video that 80 SMARTMETERS caught on fire, NOT caused by TREES, as most of the articles, and PG & E claim.

        PG & E LIES, your Family, and House burn.


        • Redi Kilowatt says:

          That was not the news segment broadcast on Sept. 5, that was the segment right after it happened.
          Nowhere do they mention 80 smartmeters. And that is when PG&E said it was a surge of only 400 volts, it was more like 4000 volts. That much voltage fried not just smartmeters, but most any thing plugged in at the time, whether turned off or on. A surge like that will jump switches and damage or destroy anything.
          The story about a tree knocking down a primary is used all across the country by utility companies when they really don’t know what happened.
          During the hurricanes back east, utility companies might sometimes shut down parts of the grid intentionally to protect their equipment, especially in vaults when flooding is expected. They will just say that the power is out, but not say exactly why, or maybe the will use the tree story.
          News flash from KTVU,
          The City of Belmont has found that a PG&E natural gas pipeline buried under a street was only 12 inches deep !
          They found it when they were doing improvements on a street. PG&E records indicated that the gas line was buried 3 feet deep. That is quite a disparity.
          The rule is for electric and gas lines is , the trench must be deep enough to allow at least 24 inches from the top of the pipe to grade level, and 6 inches of sand must be placed on top of a gas line to warn backhoe operators that they are close to a gas line.
          PG&E has had their feet in the fire almost daily now for at least the last year. Like the Dodge Boys used to say, “You in a heap-a-trouble son”.

      • Redi Kilowatt says:

        Sorry, but you will have to do your own research.
        If you search the KTVU website and don’t find it, there is nothing that I can do to get it back.
        KTVU is my favorite news channel for reporting news that none of the networks will touch.
        This news segment was very damaging to PG&E, and PG&E may have had it yanked for corporate and political reasons.

  5. Thanks Redi- you are as quick as a bolt of electricity! Please post link to new KTVU coverage if you find it online. The myth that the ‘smart grid’ is working out just fine is getting harder to maintain with a straight face with each new report like this.

  6. Redi Kilowatt says:

    For those of you out there that have been misled about the new meters and the Home Area Networks marketing and sales brochures, I would like to post a direct quote from the slick, expensive brochure that PG&E sent me about the new meter project, specifically the the Home Area Networks part of it. This is unedited , and word for word.
    ” Automate your home energy use.
    In the future, a Home Area Network (HAN)will give you the ability to automate your home energy use and take advantage of new time-variable pricing plans that enhance the value you receive from every dollar you spend on electricity. With a HAN, you’ll be able to:
    . Keep informed of your current energy use and its cost using in home displays.
    Participate in utility pricing and Demand Response programs, using communicating thermostats to achieve optimal balance between comfort and cost.
    . Purchase and use home energy management systems together with automated appliances and electronics to optimize the value from your in-home energy use “.
    This brochure is very carefully designed so as not to be an invitation for a lawsuit for false advertising. No doubt at all it took many hours or days for PG&E to carefully craft this brochure.
    Now , I will put in my observations about what PG&E wrote.
    . Keep informed of your current energy use once the system is working.
    Well, it’s not working yet here in my area, so the only and best way to keep informed of my current energy use is to take a look at my bill or my analog meter, something that most of us have been doing for decades. Even though the new meters are transmitting, the data is not being received yet by the central controllers, but if one does have one of these new meters (I don’t), all they have to do is look at the meter.
    According to the brochure from PG&E,
    ” Your GE-brand SmartMeter cycles through four displays.
    The five digit number at the top is the amount in kilowatt hours (Kwh) of energy that you have used to date since the installation of the meter.
    The three digit number at the bottom is the actual amount of energy that you are using right now.”
    The Swedish Landis-Gyr meter is similar in the displays.
    So, even though you can’t use energy and run your computer at this time to read current use, look at the display and see your use in real time .
    . Participate in utility pricing and Demand Response.
    That’s right too, participate if you want to but not mandatory. If someone wants to sign up for demand response, they can, but if the system is not yet up and running, it won’t work. I read that it will be mandatory in a few years though.
    . Purchase and use home energy management systems, together with automated appliances.
    So, those energy monitoring system will only work with automated appliances completely paid for by (guess who?), you.
    And keep in mind that only certain appliances will have these “federal stimulus taxpayer subsidized chips” installed in them, not all appliances. Only large expensive new appliances like: refrigerators, washing machines, ranges, ovens and electric clothes dryers. And if a person does not want an appliance that has a “chip” they don’t have to buy one. Nothing else that a person buys will ever have those chips installed. That means no: elevators, water pumps of any kind, furnaces or any other device to provide heat to a domicile, no dyldohs or vibrators, no toasters, no blenders, no driveway heaters, no pipe heaters, no fans, no telephones of any kind, no computers, no televisions or any other kind of media and controls, no lighting systems or any kind of irrigation systems either.
    It’s all a bunch of marketing and sales hype that has been misunderstood by a few “not so smart” individuals.
    And while I’m at it, the meters can only account for total energy used, they are not some $100,000 test instrument that distinguish what you are using your electricity for.
    The ONLY way that anyone will EVER know what brand and type of appliance you have is if you buy it on a credit or debit card, that’s it. In the new cash based society, there will be no way to keep track of individuals who want to purchase things anonymously.
    So you paranoid people out there relax, the utility corporations may be powerful, but not as much as some of you believe. They might try and market your total electrical usage, but they will never, ever be able to figure out what kind of devices and appliances it is that that you own and operate, unless you buy with a credit card !

    • Redi Kilowatt says:

      I forgot to add that not only the automated appliances must be purchased by the customer, the HAN system and all the computers necessary to read your usage data is entirely paid for, installed, programmed and maintained by the customer, and that includes the energy required to power the system that enables one to monitor how much energy required to power the system to monitor large appliances
      We can easily see that these systems will not save any energy at all, and will actually increase energy consumption in all buildings.


    CONTACT, TV and NEWSPAPERS/MEDIA to please investigate every fire for SMARTMETER IMPLICATION.

    Concord fire destroys two homes

    By Paul Thissen
    Contra Costa Times
    Posted: 09/05/2011 04:57:13 PM PDT
    Updated: 09/05/2011 08:59:04 PM PDT

    Firefighters fight a fire that started from a new home under construction, left, on Skyler Ct….
    One house burned almost to the ground and another was severely damaged in a fire Monday afternoon near Clayton Valley High School. Other homes suffered minor damage; no one was injured.
    The fire started about 4:40 p.m. at a house under construction at the end of Skyler Court. That house was fully engulfed by the time firefighters arrived, said Battalion Chief Keith Cormier of the Contra Costa Fire Protection District. All that remains are parts of its charred wood frame.
    “I was sitting there watching TV, and it looked like a cloud came over the sun,” nearby resident Dave Bolstad said. “My wife pulled back the curtain and the house was on fire. It was fully engulfed.”
    Embers from that fire ignited a house on nearby Marvue Circle, right next to where Bolstad lives.
    Bolstad said he tried to go around to the side of his house with a hose, but the heat kept him away.
    “I couldn’t get around there. The flames were too high,” he said. The gas meters for his house and his neighbor’s house appeared to catch fire, he added.
    Bolstad said his neighbor, whose house was severely damaged, is in Alaska.
    The cause of the fire is under investigation, Cormier said. PG&E told him there was no gas or electric service at the house under construction where the fire started, he said.
    Tobe Magidson, who lives on Marvue Circle, said embers from the first fire sparked another fire in an overgrown field under PG&E’s high-voltage

    transmission lines next to his house.

    “I put the whole field out with a garden hose” while waiting for firefighters, he said. It took too long for them to arrive on his street, he added.
    Contact Paul Thissen at 925-943-8163.

  8. Ron says:


    Pertaining to a couple of anomalous edits you have made to this story: First, the very revealing photo of the bank of burned out Smart Meters that you had for its banner, disappeared. In its place was an explanation that the photographer demanded buku bucks if you left it there. Then the explanation itself disappeared. So now the photo is gone, and the outrageous history of its removal has likewise been deleted. Has there been some behind-the-scenes armtwisting? Does it have anything to do with the fact that the woman who wrote the Palo Alto Online News article that you cite, is the photographer’s wife?

    For those wishing to view the original banner photograph of the burned out meters, for free, they can still be found with that updated report: http://www.paloaltoonline.com/news/show_story.php?id=22378

    • Hi Ron, Yes you are correct. It was petty of the photographer to demand $10,000 for our use of the burned our smart meter photo, and we felt it was petty to leave the explanation up on our site for longer than a couple of days. Extorting money from the public and putting profit above efforts to protect health and safety- I suggested this photographer might want to seek a career with PG&E. Let’s ignore these jokers who are just a distraction and focus on our real enemies.

  9. Pingback: Power Surges and Smart Meter fires |

  10. Redi Kilowatt says:

    My professional opinion is that there is no possible way any watt/hour meter could ever cause a power surge of 4000 volts.
    That surge came from the power grid, not the revenue meters.
    It could have been caused by equipment malfunction, like a step down transformer failing and allowing the primary voltage to jump to the secondary line.
    As much as I hate the recent radio meter project, I don’t see how the meters could ever cause such a catastrophic event.
    The new radio meters do not generate electricity, do not regulate electricity, offer no over current or over voltage protection, are not capable of discerning what any customer is using the electricity for, are not sophisticated expensive wave form analyzers, and as of last month according to PG&E, do not even report time of use of total electricity for the previous day to the utility over their radio network for customers to view online .
    I have been seeing some whacky posts from some kooks like Alex (it’s probably only one person) that claim that they have been viewing real time total electrical use online as early as September 2010.
    It’s obvious that he is a lying sack of dung, and never even tried the online feature.
    If anyone wants to see what is available and has a new smartmeter online from PG&E, please try to use the feature and report back.
    I don’t have a smart meter and if I did, I would never set up an online account to view my total electrical consumption for any time period.
    The consumption data is stored in PG&E’s servers at the revenue assurance department, and that has not been hacked, but if a customer signs up for an online register account with PG&E, it will put your sensitive data out there on the internet and also on your computer, which can be hacked or compromised.

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