State hearing on PG&E Smart Meters

FRESNO, Calif. State Senator Dean Florez will lead a 9 a.m. hearing Monday in Sacramento investigating smart meters and the "estimated bills" some customers are getting.

Meanwhile PG&E has begun new testing procedures on its controversial meters. The smart meter technology is supposed to make utility billing simpler and more accurate. But there have been glitches, in the program, and apparently in the equipment.

You aren't seeing double, this home has two electric meters. A "smart meter" has been coupled with an old fashioned analog meter so customer Juaniita Hodge can see for herself if the smart meter is accurate.

"But when it went on, my bill went up," said Juanita Hodge.

She complained, and this double meter was PG& E's response.

"Well, I'm hoping it's going to prove to me that, you know, one way or the other, either that I was wrong or they were wrong -- one of the two. So, I'm happy that they come to do this," said Hodge.

The utility plans to install 150 double meters in hopes of winning customers confidence in smart meter technology.

"So that's really what we're working on at this point in time and the side by side testing is one of the methods that we're utilizing in order to do that," said PG&E spokesman Jeff Smith.

But State Senator Dean Florez is among those who have little confidence in PG& E or their smart meter tests. "Well, I mean, I think it's a little late. They should have had these tests before they put in one meter, not now that all the meters are pretty much in."

Florez's hearing today focuses on PG&E's practice of estimating utility bills. That was done when meter readers couldn't access property, but Florez doesn't understand why it's being done now, with smart meters. "Either don't estimate at all since we've paid the technology, or if you are going to estimate, go back to meter readers so people can be employed, have jobs and actually probably give us better readings than these smart meters which we are not sure they work at all."

PG&E says equipment problems do require occasional estimates, but says the bills are ultimately correct.

Also participating in Monday morning's hearing will be representatives of the California Public Utilities Commission, Southern California Edison, and San Diego Gas & Electric. More public hearings are scheduled for the future.

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