CPUC smart meter opt out testimony

On Oct 5, 2012 testimony was served in the CPUC smart meter opt out proceeding. On behalf of the EMF Safety Network I served the Testimony of Sandi Maurer. Here’s the summary,

“All customers should be allowed to opt-out of Smart Meters at no cost. Smart Meter opt-out costs should be paid by utility shareholders and/or shifting of utility funds. There should be no initial fees, no monthly fees and no exit fees. I believe that charging fees to opt out of a health and safety hazard is unlawful, and defeats the purpose of the opt out program which was to give utility customers a choice. Punitive opt out fees must be eliminated because they are unjust, unreasonable and in my opinion unlawful based on the Public Utilities Code.

The customer did not create this problem. The Commission, in concert with the utilities forced Smart Meters onto customers. They failed to fully vet the technical specifications prior to approval. They dismissed formal public opposition and continued to deploy Smart Meters and scrap analog meters.

Customer choice should be extended to commercial customers. Customers who have paid opt out fees should have their money refunded. Future costs of Smart Meter problems should be considered. Millions of Smart Meters are not working properly, and tens of thousands are failing and being replaced annually. Investigations on Smart Meter fires are currently taking place in three other states. The long term public health risk is a serious cost and liability issue, and health experts are advising against Smart Meters. A free opt out is an important step toward resolving these and other Smart Meter complaints.”

Six other parties in the smart meter opt out proceeding also served testimony. The Center for Electrosmog Prevention and Jeromy Johnson took a similar position as I did, calling for no fee opt out. Aglet Consumer Alliance called for a health and safety review and free opt out for customers with medical conditions. CLECA, an industry group, did not want business customers to pay more for the opt out program.

The District Ratepayer Advocates (DRA), who are a division within the CPUC whose mission is: “Our statutory mission is to obtain the lowest possible rate for service consistent with reliable and safe service levels. In fulfilling this goal, DRA also advocates for customer and environmental protections. ” DRA did not recommend how opt out fees should be allocated.

In a shocking turnabout, The Utility Reform Network (TURN), a leading California utility consumer advocacy group who has encouraged its members to refuse Smart Meters on their homes since 2009, is now advocating Smart Meter opt out customers pay even more than the current “interim opt out fees “of $75/10 and $10/5 for CARE- low income. TURN testimony  Although it’s not clear what TURN recommended for PG&E customers, they sided with SCE and SDG&E in recommending individual customers pay all opt out program costs.

TURN recommends SCE customers pay $56 initial fee and $19 every month, and for low income $45 initial fee and $15 a month!  That’s $89 more per year, and $155 more per year for low income customers than the current proposed “interim” fees, which are already punitive! This is a major contradiction. I called TURN to discuss this, but the lawyer who worked on the case was out of town and unavailable for comment.

7 thoughts on “CPUC smart meter opt out testimony”

  1. Thank you for your years of work and this very dynamic testimony! We will prevail because we are right – smart meters are harmful, there is no way around it.

  2. This and chemtrails are two of the biggest perpetrations on the American people.
    Donating to this cause, monthly, is vital to our safety and well- being. I see no greater cause in California at this time.
    Nina Widlund

  3. Hi Sandi,
    That’s amazing that Turn, which bills itself as a consumer advocate association, is requesting that SCE customers pay more than the current opt out fees. Right now we’re paying $10 dollars a month. $19 dollars a month is excessive and such high fees seem a way to end the opt out program through a kind of attrition.
    We do not need wireless carcinogen emitting smart meters attached to our living area walls in order to conserve electricity. We can do that (reduce usage) on our own by shutting off lights and keeping unused appliances unplugged, etc.

    Melissa Levine

  4. I am the TURN attorney who was out of town last week (in Boston). Sandi is only partially correct. We submitted testimony by an expert witness on costs. Edison (SCE) proposed fees of $98/$24 (one-time and monthly) for smart meter opt-out. And SCE proposed $78/$19 for CARE customer. Our witness found that actual “incremental” costs could only justify fees of 56/19 and 45/15. Yes, these are higher (except for the $56) than current fees. But lower than SCE’s proposal. The Commission adopted current fees as “interim.” We are trying to keep the utilities from jacking them up even higher. We welcome all support in this effort.

    Please also keep in mind that our testimony is from an expert consultant who has to get up in front of the judge and testify under oath based on what the CPUC said was the issue – how high should these fees be to cover utility costs. We all agree these meters are unnecessary. Unfortunately, that is not the battle in this testimony. You should keep making the case, but we are working from a different angle. It’s kind of like nuclear power. Many environmentalists fight it based on health impacts. TURN (and similar groups around the country) try to fight it on cost grounds, due to the practical realities of how the ‘regulators’ approach nuclear power. Both ways of fighting a bad thing are needed.

  5. My dear Marcel,

    It always is so awkward when one runs into an old friend who has taken a turn for the worse; difficult to know what to say.

    However, in this case, I find words come readily. I understand TURN must tread the line that Sylvia chose when she decided to accept cash for advocacy. She knew there were risks, but I believe, here, she would have interceded, lest her organization transgress by violating the members’ trust.

    This is too blatant to ignore: to castigate utilities for unjust charges which you then endorse makes TURN ridiculous. Not only have TURN spokespeople misled the people for whom you purportedly advocate, it is embarrassingly obvious TURN disavows its own reports to membership. Can you not keep your records straight?

    Your witness must have accepted Edison (SCE) info at face value instead of doing the investigative work needed to point out fallacies in their figures. The inflation may not be as clear as PGE’s bankruptcy and San Bruno costs, but we all know they are there. Only industry-oriented people support, and do not scrutinize the devious devices used to inflate utility costs, which enhance their profits at the expanse of rate-payers.

    If the meters are unnecessary, then the costs and fees are unjustified.
    That is fighting “it on cost grounds”, no?

    That is what TURN once did, proudly and quite well. I regret your current deviation. from what I believed was TURN’s stated purpose.

    Garril Page

  6. Marcel,

    Thank you for your response, but there is no justification for charging even higher opt out fees. All utility customers are paying (via utility rates and federal stimulus funds) for the “Smart” Meter infrastructure whether they have a “smart” meter or not.
    It is a utility company canard that analogs are somehow causing the utility companies more expense.
    Thank you for your overall work with representing utility customers, but I urge your organization not to buy into the utility company’s divide and conquer strategy which pits customers against each other.

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