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Edison 'Smart Meters' are up and running in Mammoth

May 25, 2012

 

By now you’ve seem them—the Corix installers in the yellow vests, driving Corix vehicles this way and that, and wearing Corix ID badges representing them as Southern California Edison contractors.

How could you miss them?

The Corix swarm was in Mammoth this week, carrying a full load of “SmartConnect” electrical meters—newfangled devices that come with radio-frequency technology and a boatload of public relations packages.

The PR effort is as unmistakable as the Corix trucks and the yellow vests, meant to allay some customers’ fears of radio frequency signals, while pushing the benefits of the program to anyone who would listen.

There is a catch, however.

“Not everybody wants a SmartConnect meter,” said Edison Regional Supervisor Dan Brady in a presentation before the Mammoth Town Council on May 2.

“Some have concerns about radio-frequency; some have concerns about privacy issues.”

But if there was any serious pushback—Councilman Rick Wood on the Town Council and just a few Supes at the supervisors’ meeting on May 15—it didn’t count for much.

The installers began their work with Mammoth customers at the tail-end of 20,000 such installations in the Eastern Sierra and five million California customers since 2009.

The project is part of a $1.6 billion project aimed at reducing peak loads, reducing residential energy consumption and replacing a worn-out national electric grid.

Among the biggest concerns was Edison’s “opt-out” program.

For those who don’t want the new meters, it will cost them a $75 set-up fee and $10 a month. For low-income qualified customers, the fee is $10 for set-up and $5 a month charge thereafter.

Brady said the California Public Utilities Commission voted to approve the opt-out at its meeting in mid-April.

Much of the argument over the smart-meters is over the radio-frequency aspect of it.

“My understanding, from what I’m reading,” Wood said, “is that some people have concerns about the radio frequency signals that are coming off these devices, and I’m assuming that Edison considers to be a a low dosage. But it’s always on.”

Brady said that the meters “are not always emanating RF. It’s about three-to-seven minutes rather than a 24-hour period,” he said.

Wood pressed on, though.

“Is that signal affected by a barrier between the meter, which is typically located by the outside of the home? What it there’s somebody with a meter right outside the bedroom, or where someone sleeps every day and it happens to be within three feet as depicted on the (public relations chart), but there’s a wall in between?  Does that impact the signal?”

Said Brady:

“My understanding, and I’m about the farthest away from a scientist, but the farther you get away from the meter, the farther distance you have, the less signal you’re exposed to, much like a cellphone or a microwave or a monitor or transmitter.

“Yes, when you start putting materials between signals you start reducing those frequency signals also, to my understanding.

“The meter location, whenever there is new construction, and this happened even before smart meters, we always wants to put the meters on the sides of garages, keeping them away from bedrooms and stuff.”

The issue has been a tame one, all save the Bay Area, where Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) customers raised a persistent hue and cry.

As of April 29, 19,500 customers had opted out, which was well below the 145,000 to 150,000 that PG&E predicted. On top of that, it’s also just a fraction of the 92,000 PG&E customers who placed themselves on a list to delay having the meters installed. 

But Brady said the benefits to the customer and to the grid far outweigh most of the concerns.

The new meters will allow customers to use new tools, such as a “budget assistant,” peak-time rebates and energy alerts, he said.

Also, it will provide customers with hourly interval usage information, the previous day’s usage and the average usage for previous day compared to the high temperature in area.

More questions and information are on the Edison website at www.sce.com.

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