Yesterday, we learned from the Chronicle that PG&E plans to disconnect residents who refuse to pay their extortionate opt out fees. No consultation with the public about our energy system, no hearings to get to the bottom of why tens of thousands of Californians have suffered (in some cases devastating) medical conditions when the smart meter was installed. No investigation into widespread reports of smart meter fires. No delay in the fees pending resolution of unresolved procedural issues. Just an arrogant ultimatum from one of the largest investor owned utilities in the country.
PG&E warns that people who opt out but don’t pay the fees will be treated like any other customers who owe the company money – they could see their power shut off if they don’t eventually pay up.
“It is a part of what they owe, and at some time in the future, it’ll be an unpaid bill that’ll be subject to collection and possibly subject to cut off,” Burt said, adding, “That is absolutely the last thing we want to do.”
Actually, we’re pretty sure that the thought of disconnecting rebellious customers is something that executives within PG&E relish the thought of. These are the same executives who cheered William Devereaux on as he used a false identity to obtain information on the campaigning and legal strategy of smart meter opponents in 2010, calling us “insurgents.” While their public statements are designed to sound reasonable, from what we can glean, the internal dialogue within the company resembles something like a football locker room where all the players have lost their moral scruples, and just want to kick some ass.
We tend to assume that PG&E hatches radical punitive schemes to extract as much money as possible from their customers and that the CPUC reigns them in (that is their job after all, to look after the public interest). But according to new documents obtained by Edward Hasbrouck under a CA Public Records Act Request, it appears that CPUC Business and Community Outreach Supervisor Marzia Zafar- after viewing photos of analog meters locked up- encouraged PG&E to add language to their opt out advice letter indicating that customers who did not respond to PG&E’s opt out letter would be “deemed to have elected” the fee. This is precisely the language that Hasbrouck is challenging as illegal.
You can read the full set of documents (pdf) released by the CPUC at Edward’s site. Little by little, we’re beginning to understand how the PUC is scheming with the utilities to force an unpopular program into our communities and onto our homes.
More reasons every day to resist the “smart grid.”
“PG&E warns that people who opt out but don’t pay the fees will be treated like any other customers who owe the company money – they could see their power shut off if they don’t eventually pay up.
‘It is a part of what they owe, and at some time in the future, it’ll be an unpaid bill that’ll be subject to collection and possibly subject to cut off,’ Burt said, adding, ‘That is absolutely the last thing we want to do.'”
I like the “could” . . .”possibly” part because it also implies “could possibly not”. Burt & Co. are fresh graduates of the School of Intimidation. Why is cutting off the power “absolutely the last thing” they want to do? Because the last time they tried that in December in Santa Cruz County, it totally backfired into a scandalous public relations fiasco featuring a stern public grilling of a PG$E sacrificial goat by an incensed Board of Supervisors. It backfired so badly, that within a week the PG$E Grinch did a 180 and restored power to several vocal women of Capitola.
This was a benchmark turning point in our struggle that finally resulted in a sort of Trojan horse concession. This was the moment when SmartNot Meters became no longer “mandatory”–when CEO Anthony Earley came out with his astonishing though deceptive reversal: “Why should we be fighting with our own customers over something like this?” (But here we are nearly 5 months later, and they still are).
Well, not only was power restored in Capitola, but the new meters PG$E brought out were a revolutionary new design of the kind pictured here:
If you’ve been kissing your analog beast, your affections are misplaced–perhaps even a little disgusting. The Capitola meters, on the other hand, are a kind of meter we can live with:
–no parasitical consumption of your power just to power itself
–comes with PG$E’s official seal of approval & tamper-proof security
–super reliable, quality control with lifetime warranty (their bankrupt lifetime, not yours)
–simple, elegant, efficient, with non-digital aesthetics
–incapable of generating bills, with no bogus extra charges since no meter reading is necessary
–the “Jumper Cover” component barely conceals the cow jumping over the moon
Come on, Capitola, can you give us an update on the continued celestial performance of those Super Space-Age Shunts?
Zafar is a former lead lobbyist for So CA Gas.
She has conflicts of interest the size of the Grand Canyon and should not be allowed to meddle, that is not what “regulating” is about.
History on Marzia Zafar, CPUC Supervisor: From 11 years as a Sempra employee, to 4 years as a So CA Gas Lobbyist, to CPUC regulatory commission, where she is in charge of promoting the smart grid and smart meters to businesses and the public. This is called the “revolving door” and is an example of why CPUC staff are so non-responsive about the smart grid and smart meter problems. They are recycled from industry jobs and support them.
Marzia Zafar manages the Business & Community Outreach Group for the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC). In this capacity Marzia and her team review the smart grid deployment plans of the three large California utilities (Sempra, PG&E, and SDG&E) with a focus on the plans customer outreach and education roadmap; whether the utilities have a credible roadmap to allow for customer experience and engagement to be the driving force to change their energy behavior. Marzia has worked at the CPUC for almost five years and prior to that she was the lead lobbyist for Southern California Gas Company.
Marzia Zafar, California Public Utilities Commission, reported on the status of the opt-out deliberations at the CPUC and made it clear that municipalities and individuals could not unilaterally opt-out and if they wanted to they would have to appeal to their state legislators.
The left hand (PG$E) does not know what the right hand (CPUC) is doing, and neither one wants to handle the hot potato of legal challenges to the analog charges.
First, regarding the issue of establishing what the default action will be in the absence of customer response: If CPUC staffer Marzia Zafar suggested that those who did not respond to certified mail requests would be “deemed to have elected” to pay more for the analog meter, then PG$E most definitely did not follow her advice. In fact, the certified letter that they sent out stipulates the other default “choice”. It states: “If we do not receive your request by (May 1, 2012), we will assume your preference is to have PG&E upgrade your meters to SmartMetersTM.”
PG$E proposed the same default action in their Advice Letter 3278-G/4006-E, Ordering Paragraph 2, part b: “A customer on the delay list shall be informed that the customer will be scheduled to receive a wireless SmartMeter unless the customer elects to exercise the opt-out option.”
However, Marzia Zafar’s preference resurfaces farther into the Advice Letter in Attachment 2: SmartMeter Opt-Out Program Procedures. Under Procedure to Install Analog Meter(s) for Opt-Out Program Residential Customers, it says: “If PG&E makes a field visit to a customer’s residence for purposes of installing a SmartMeterTM and the customer does not provide reasonable access to PG&E to install a SmartMeterTM after being provided notice of eligibility for service under this Opt-Out Program and not electing to opt-out, the customer shall be deemed to have elected service under this Opt-Out Program.”
Because the right hand has its fingers crossed with defective procedures and conflicting rulings pertaining to the legality of the extra charges, the left hand is hogtied and prevented from establishing definitive policy around this issue. That was the distinct impression I got yesterday when I called in to refuse Smart Meters and assert my intention to keep the analogs. The only thing I opted out of was the extra charges. The representative asked me if I understood the charges? I replied yes, and I deny consent to those charges and refuse to pay them since they are illegal and have been challenged and contested. She said if I wanted to raise any legal issues, to contact the CPUC. No comments about a lot of “misinformation” circulating, no mention of putting any stickers on my meters, no plans to “test” my analogs. Just hand off the hot potato to the PUC.
So I asked which division of the CPUC I should ask for, and was surprised at the casual answer: “Oh, I dunno, just tell them what you want and they’ll route you to the right department.” They’re winging it, because they know the bogus extra charges float on very shaky legal ground.