What a great position the utility companies are in, when looking at it from a capitalistic point of view (very little marketing expense, captive customers with no competition, and state and federal funding at the drop of a hat).
If I sound a little bitter or disillusioned, it may be because of the smart meter program and total lack of communication on the part of the utility companies, namely Southern California Edison and Southern California Gas Company.
In January of this year, our nonprofit affordable housing corporation, Pilgrim Terrace, voted to opt out of the smart meter installations until there were further clarifications on what these meters did or did not do. At a general meeting of the Board of Directors and residents, the concerns were expressed about articles having to do with the effects on pacemakers.
We are a 62-plus and/or disabled community providing affordable housing for low-income (at-risk) people. As the administrator and HUD certified management agent for the property, it is my job not only to protect the property, but every resident as well. The residents went on a call-to-opt-out campaign and requested that I do the same for the Activity Center, where they have many activities everyday. I called SCE, as the administrator, and it placed the 649 Pilgrim Terrace Drive address on the list as well.
Everything seemed to be accomplished and the residents were happy with everything until April 11, when a technician from Corix came to my office and informed me that he was here to install the smart meters. I informed him that we were on the opt-out program and that he needed to hold off doing anything until I could make some calls. The installer instantly became argumentative, proclaiming that it was impossible for us to opt-out on commercial meters and that he owned the meters anyway. I made the effort to explain that the meters he was installing were on the residential unit and for customers who did not want the meters installed — in fact, about 6 inches from the residential meters.
He then began to tell me that his father had a pacemaker and that he had a smart meter on his house for two years with no effects. I asked him to leave my property, he refused, I informed him that as the agent in charge of the property that I had the right to trespass him and have him removed by the local police. He called his dispatch supervisor, who instructed him to ignore me and to install the meters. I had our maintenance staff go ahead of the installer and screw the doors shut, and for every screw he removed they were to put two more in its place. I then instructed the installer that we all were willing to work overtime screwing doors shut as he tried to open them. While that was happening, I was on the phone to Corix and the toll-free line speaking with one of the representatives.
After several minutes of conversation, the installer was instructed to leave. The Corix representative verified that 649 Pilgrim Terrace Drive was on the opt-out list. I then explained that the so-called commercial meters that her installer came to replace were next to the unit meters that were on the opt-out list, and that the meters they were intending to replace were part of the 649 Pilgrim Terrace address as listed on the SCE billing statement. She then instructed me to call SCE.
The representative at SCE informed me that I could not opt-out on commercial meters. I then had him verify that 649 Pilgrim Terrace Drive was indeed on the opt-out list. After a futile conversation of him not having any reasonable explanation on why the 649 meter was on the opt-out list, he instructed me to call the California Public Utilities Commission. After speaking to a representative there and discovering that the PUC is pro-smart meter-orientated, I hung up in total disgust.
SCE has no concept of what customer service is, they do not care about the elderly customers who depend on safe and reliable energy, and they certainly are not prone to answering questions to the general population — in this case, the public. I believe that the utility companies need to be brought down to earth and act like reasonable human beings and knock off the contemptuous attitude they display toward their customers. When a person is frail and ill, they do not need the added stress of fear, and they are entitled to reasonable explanations to help calm those potentially life-threatening anxieties of the unknown. They know nothing about the smart meters, and obviously they do not feel the compassion nor the need to explain themselves.
John Jeffries, administrator
Pilgrim Terrace Cooperative Homes