On Wednesday, Sept. 21, California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) President Michael Peevey directed Southern California Edison (SCE), along with Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) and San Diego Gas and Electric, to establish programs to allow customers to delay installation of controversial Smart Meters, which the utility companies are using to replace analog meters statewide.

SCE customers who have not yet received a Smart Meter can request being placed on a “delay” list by calling (800) 810-2369 or writing a letter to SCE. The Town Crier called the “800” number and this is a brief summary of the procedure. Once the call is answered, and a recorded inquiry confirms the caller is a residential customer, a customer representative picks up. It is important to confirm if you will be placed on the list “immediately,” as Peevey’s written order requires, or if other future steps are required.

Justina Garcia of SCE said about 95 percent of the installations in the Idyllwild, Pine Cove and Mountain Center areas have been completed. Customers who have not yet gotten a Smart Meter typically receive a notice two to six weeks in advance of installation, said Garcia. At that time, they can request to be placed on the “delay” list. She said there was also a zip code inquiry on the SCE website regarding installation dates.

Peevey’s order states that once a customer requests a delay, the utility may not install a Smart Meter unless the customer subsequently requests being taken off the list or the utility gets a specific exception from the CPUC for that customer’s home. Customers will remain on the delay list until CPUC completes its examination of the issues associated with Smart Meter installation. SCE is currently under no order to submit an opt-out plan, according to Garcia.

The CPUC has not yet approved the opt-out plan it had earlier required PG&E to submit. PG&E tendered the plan in March but customer objections over the cost to opt out have so far delayed CPUC approval. The PG&E plan would have charged customers fees to have the transmission feature of the meters disconnected — a $135 to $270 up-front fee, a $14 to $20 monthly fee and an exit fee when the customer discontinues service. It is the transmission of the electrical pulse (the electromagnetic wave) from the meter that has raised health concerns for some consumers.

There is also no current plan or order from the CPUC allowing a customer to request removal of a once-installed Smart Meter and replacement with an analog meter, such as the customer had before.

In answer to a question about whether SCE Smart Meters can arbitrarily turn off particular appliances in customers’ homes without their permission during an energy overload, Garcia said, “Overall, our Smart Meters are only measuring cumulative load, and are not measuring nor are they connected to specific appliances in a customer’s home. In the future, when smart appliances and devices become largely available, it will be up to customers to choose to purchase these and to create a home area network to connect them to their Smart Meters.”

Garcia explained that during peak energy periods, SCE first targets industrial customers to try to reduce load and safeguard the power grid. SCE also has a voluntary program in which customers can choose to allow their air conditioners to be cycled off during periods of peak load and receive a rebate for doing so. Garcia pointed out that SCE must come to the customer’s house to equip the air conditioner with the ability to allow remote shutoff.

See http://www.sce.com/CustomerService/smartconnect/common-questions.htm for more information.