CA Senator Dean Florez Actions Results In Order For Independent Testing Of PG&E SmartMeters

California State Senator Dean Florez, living up to his Lt. Governor Campaign Theme: “Hard Work Matters,” has called for independent review of PG&E devices amid widespread billing anomalies.

SACRAMENTO – The California Public Utilities Commission, on Friday, November 20, 2009, declared “extraordinary circumstances” to allow them to quickly move forward with hiring an independent consultant to test PG&E’s “Smart” Meters, amid widespread reports of billing anomalies with the new digital meters, including bill spikes of double and triple normal utility payments – even in vacant homes.

Senate Majority Leader Dean Florez (D-Shafter) has held hearings in Bakersfield and Fresno on residents’ concerns that Smart Meters are not accurately reading their energy usage.  Many of those residents reported spikes in usage while they were at work or on vacation.

In October, Florez hand delivered a list of demands to CPUC president Michael Peevey, including a call for independent testing of meters and a moratorium on new installations until such testing was completed.  Peevey did not call for a moratorium, but quickly agreed to independent testing, a position made formal by today’s unanimous vote of the CPUC.

By declaring extraordinary circumstances, the agency can avoid some of the delays in the contracting process and get answers for consumers – some of whom have seen their utility bills eclipse their rent or mortgage – more quickly.

“While I would have liked to see a halt to Smart Meter installations until we can assure consumers they work, I am happy the PUC took this action to get to those answers as quickly as possible,” said Florez.  “No one should be making the decision between keeping the lights on or putting food on the table while these doubts persist.”

“I also believe the public needs assurance that this testing will look at how these meters work in real life, in real homes, with comparisons to historical figures using traditional meters,” Florez continued.  “Clearly the off-the-line factory testing that has occurred has not been sufficient.”

Smart Meters are ultimately supposed to give consumers real-time information on their energy usage, so they can make adjustments to save on their bills, but the technology to allow the sort of communication needed to achieve that will not be in place for years.  So far, only the utility itself seems to be saving — eliminating the labor costs of manually reading older meters — as many consumers say their bills have increased dramatically despite cutting back on energy consumption.

PG&E has blamed the spike on summer heat, but much of the increase has come from multiple rate hikes approved readily by the Public Utilities Commission, much of that to pay for the new meters.

Editor Note: Senator Florez, as he has frequently done so in the past, listened to the concerns of his constituents and worked tirelessly to require PG&E address the huge billing spikes in meetings and hearings over the last sixty or so days. In this writers opinion, while he is doing the work you would expect of YOUR legislator, he clearly is living up to his campaign theme, “Hard Work Matters” and is exactly what California needs in the next Lt. Governor.