Friday, August 28 , 2015, 10:48 am | Fair 80.0º




Edison Customers Express Concern, Frustration Over Installation of Smart Meters

Administrative law judge and CPUC representative listen to 2½ hours of feedback at a public hearing in Santa Barbara

Administrative law judge Amy Yip Kikugawa, left, and Carol Brown, a representative for California Public Utilities Commission president Michael Peevey, listen to Southern California Edison customers express concern Friday over the installation of smart meters.

Administrative law judge Amy Yip Kikugawa, left, and Carol Brown, a representative for California Public Utilities Commission president Michael Peevey, listen to Southern California Edison customers express concern Friday over the installation of smart meters.  (Giana Magnoli / Noozhawk photo)

By Giana Magnoli, Noozhawk Staff Writer | @magnoli |

Residents of Santa Barbara and Ventura counties attending a public hearing Friday afternoon expressed their outrage over smart meter installations and Southern California Edison’s fees for the opt-out program.

Administrative law judge Amy Yip Kikugawa and a representative from the California Public Utilities Commission listened to 2½ hours of concerns and complaints from Edison customers, most of whom have opted out of having a new, wireless SmartConnect meter installed.

By keeping an analog meter, SCE customers are required to pay an initial $75 fee followed by $10 monthly, which people called “highway robbery” and “extortion,” among other things.

There was no action taken at the hearing, but Kikugawa said the transcripts will be sent to all five CPUC commissioners, since none was present for Friday’s hearing. It was just Kikugawa and Carol Brown, a representative for CPUC president Michael Peevey, in the Hearing Room of the Santa Barbara County Administration Building in Santa Barbara.

Customer concerns are based on the charge for the opt-out program, health and privacy concerns. Beyond that, people are furious that the changeover to smart meters was even approved — and that the CPUC has been unresponsive to their concerns.

Ojai resident Sue Williamson asked why the CPUC wasn’t present at the hearing, since commissioners have the power to change this program and address the concerns.

“Karma is going to bite you in the butt,” she said.

Santa Barbara County 1st District Supervisor Salud Carbajal asked the CPUC to create an affordable opt-out option for customers, while everyone else requested that the charges be eliminated entirely.

“It’s very clear that the overwhelming majority in this room believe they should not have to pay anybody for something they don’t want,” said attorney and former Assemblyman Pedro Nava, D-Santa Barbara.

Senate Bill 17, which created the program allowing smart meters, requires cyber security and implementation that doesn’t compromise consumer or worker safety, and Edison’s program doesn’t accomplish those things, Nava said.

Attorney and former Assemblyman Pedro Nava, D-Santa Barbara, was among dozens of speakers at Friday's public hearing to discuss smart meters installed by Southern California Edison. (Giana Magnoli / Noozhawk photo)
Attorney and former Assemblyman Pedro Nava, D-Santa Barbara, was among dozens of speakers at Friday’s public hearing to discuss smart meters installed by Southern California Edison. (Giana Magnoli / Noozhawk photo)

The fees are a “ridiculous, absurd amount of money,” Oxnard resident George Miller said.

Diane Hawkins of the Ventura County Libertarian Party said Edison’s electricity monopoly means customers can’t avoid the opt-out options. Having the opt-out is a “false choice,” she she.

“It’s like asking whether you want your right ear cut off or your left ear cut off,” Hawkins said.

More people would opt out of having new meters installed but simply can’t afford to, many said Friday.

Health concerns dominate the reasons these customers are against the new meters, and many say they’ve experienced headaches, heart palpitations or electrical interference from the ones installed at their homes or neighbors’ homes.

Others are worried about the potential impacts of the technology’s electromagnetic output.

“I am not willing to use my family as a science experiment,” one woman said.

Some people said they are extra-sensitive to wireless technology and electromagnetic fields, and have been worse since the smart meters came around. Even if they opt-out, some said, their neighbors may not, so the technology is still very close to their homes.

Residents of condominium and apartment complexes have the same issue, but multiplied. Most meters for these complexes are installed in banks next to each other, so one unit has multiple meters on the wall.

Homeowners expressed privacy concerns as well, since the meters make it clear when someone is home — or at least when and how much power is being used.

Gary Vanderman of Goleta worried about the remote turn on/shut off power with the new meters, too. Whether purposefully, accidentally or through some kind of software glitch, “anytime, anywhere, your power can be shut off,” he said.

He said he has opted out as a protection against that.

Some told stories about installers coming onto private property without permission, even when the person has already opted out.

Corex, which installs meters for SCE, was called a lot of bad names Friday, and residents complained that some meters were installed even at properties registered for the opt-out program.

Once installed, it’s been impossible to get the meters removed, some said.

One man, who lives in an apartment, said he wouldn’t think twice if someone installed one on his property without permission.

“I would smash every single f****ing one of them,” he said.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.




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» on 12.15.12 @ 12:12 PM

No surprise at outcome.  Utilities companies are not out for the best interest of their customers.  Some of the worst predatory capitalism is found in this sector of the economy.  They nick away at you w fees like this, and end up making money off you, dear customer.  This is very typical:  taking public testimony but not making a decision.  Then disappearing and hoping to ride it out w out having to make any concessions.  Welcome to the world of monopoly.

» on 12.15.12 @ 12:23 PM

Orwell was right.

» on 12.15.12 @ 12:48 PM

I have little patience for people complaining about Smart Meters for health and privacy concerns.  As for health, people subject themselves to more electomagnetic radiation every time they use a cellphone or hair dryer.  As for privacy, people surrender more privacy every time they use the Internet or email.

» on 12.15.12 @ 01:29 PM

Did anyone discuss actual science and facts regarding these meters? Or was it just a recitation of emotional anecdotes? If the former, perhaps some people would begin to understand the the likelihood that their concerns are not founded in facts.

As far as the fees to opt out, it seems to me to be obvious that as the electric grid is updated it will cost more to manually read old style meters. So it seems logical that the options for the electric companies are to charge those that opt out or to spread the costs among all customers. Which of those is the fairest way to go…?

» on 12.15.12 @ 02:17 PM

Earl, no corporations are out for the best interest of their customers.  They are out for profits.  Corporations are required by law to see to the best interest of their stockholders.

» on 12.15.12 @ 03:29 PM

>>>Earl, no corporations are out for the best interest of their customers.  They are out for profits.  Corporations are required by law to see to the best interest of their stockholders.

Which is perhaps why utilities that supply the things we need, not just want, should be public, not private.

» on 12.15.12 @ 03:31 PM

Companies exist to make a profit. Otherwise they have no reason to be in business.

That doesn’t mean that they should use dishonest or illegal means to make that profit. That’s where the government oversight (like the CPUC) comes into play for those companies that press the line.

Companies DO need to pay attention to meeting the needs of their customers since without customers they will cease to make a profit. Utilities are a bit different since they are given a monopoly in order to have an efficient public utility grid. Government oversight has been doing a reasonably good job most of the time.

We should all think of these facts when we discuss companies not looking out for the best interests of their customers, especially utilities.

» on 12.15.12 @ 06:05 PM

If you trust a utility to put on a fee that only covers it costs,  you are naive.  They have a long history across the country of using fees to increase profits.,  I don’t care about the science.  More dangerous are the predatory capitalists of this industry.

» on 12.17.12 @ 03:11 AM

Follow the money. Unions gone wild.

» on 12.17.12 @ 03:55 AM

Not a union guy, but in this instance it is the corporate execs who milk this industry for maximum profit.  It is one of the most egregious stealth predatory industries.  Anticipating there would be Luddites who would object to the Smart meters, the corporate execs and their number-crunching wizards, I am sure, prefigured the fees to opt out not to offset costs but add to the profit,  for the corporate execs, most of all.  Remember these are suppose to be PUBLIC utilities.  Ha, ha.

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