Over boos and hisses from opponents of PG&E's SmartMeters, the California Public Utilities Commission Wednesday voted to impose fees on PG&E
customers who choose to opt out of the utility's SmartMeter program.
In a unanimous decision, the CPUC adopted a set of program modifications, which allow PG&E to recover costs associated with replacing SmartMeters or allowing customers to keep the older and more costly analog devices.
SmartMeters are meant to help reduce energy consumption by wirelessly monitoring usage, according to the CPUC.
The metering systems are being installed as part of a nationwide "smart grid" in 25 states around the country, CPUC President Michael Peevey said.
Opponents argue that the meters emit harmful electromagnetic signals and even radiation, an argument that state and federal agencies say is not backed by science.
Peevey quoted studies by the Federal ommunications Commission and the California Council on Science and Technology, which concluded that potential negative health effects from SmartMeters had not been "identified or confirmed."
Customers electing to keep analog meters will be assessed an initial fee of $75 and a monthly charge of $10. Low-income customers can opt out of the SmartMeter program for an initial fee of $10 and an ongoing monthly charge of $5.
Speakers from across Northern California packed the commission auditorium in San Francisco Wednesday morning, some demanding that the CPUC reconsider charging fees for customers who opt out of the SmartMeter program, others demanding an end to wireless meters altogether.
Residents of Santa Cruz, San Francisco, Marin and San Luis Obispo counties claimed that SmartMeters were responsible for headaches, dizziness, insomnia, and heart palpitations.
Peevey said that the CPUC was responding to concerns raised by the public by offering an avenue to opt out of the SmartMeter program.