After a year of heated debate over the accuracy of PG&E's SmartMeters, the results are in for the first tests on the devices.
Last summer, PG&E installed another round of SmartMeters in Kern County. At the same time, a rate increase went into effect. Many people blamed their higher bills on the new meters. PG&E decided to perform side-by-side testing of new and old meters so customers could see whether the SmartMeters were accurate.
Steve Townsend was the first PG&E customer to participate in the test. "There was so much talk at the time about whether they were accurate or whether they were inaccurate, people complaining about enormously changed bills," Townsend said.
For almost four months, PG&E ran two meters side by side at Townsend's home, the traditional meter and his SmartMeter. PG&E says the results show his SmartMeter was actually slightly underestimating his usage. Denny Boyles, the PG&E Spokesman for Kern County says, "Steve's is the biggest variance of any of the meters that we've put in. The benefit is to him."
Results from the first 252 tests are posted weekly on PG&E's website. So far, many are in favor of the smart meter. "Our meters have to be accurate plus or minus two percent and service territory wide, that's what were seeing," explains Boyles.
But Boyles says there is still work to be done, when it comes to gaining back the trust of their customers. He notes, "We believe we have a long way to go in terms of restoring our customer confidence. We had confidence in the technology before, moving forward we still have that confidence. The hope is as these tests roll through the service territory that more and more customers will gain confidence in the service technology."
The California Public Utilities Commission is performing its own investigation into PG&E smart meters, using an independent consulting firm. The commission is looking into whether the smart meter system is measuring, collecting, and billing electric usage accurately. A report is expected to be released later this summer.