The CPUC selected The Structure Group to conduct an independent evaluation of Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) Smart Meters.
Structure was chosen to test and validate the meter and billing accuracy of PG&E's Smart Meters in response to concern expressed by consumers and Senators Dean Florez (D-Shafter) and Roy Ashburn (R-Bakersfield) over high energy bills that occurred around the same time PG&E installed Smart Meters in the San Joaquin Valley area.
Smart Meters have been installed throughout California, the U.S., and internationally. In California, the CPUC authorized Southern California Edison to install approximately 5.3 million new Smart Meters, San Diego Gas and Electric Company approximately 1.4 million electric Smart Meters and 900,000 natural gas meters, and PG&E approximately 5 million electric meters and 4.2 million natural gas meters. As these Smart Meters have been rolled out, the CPUC has received just over 600 complaints, almost all from PG&E's service area.
Working under the supervision of the CPUC, the evaluation process will address the following areas:
- Whether PG&E's Smart Meter system is measuring and billing electric usage accurately, both now and since meter deployment began.
- Independent analysis of the high bill customer complaints. This analysis will leverage industry accepted practices for estimating customer consumption, as well as account for changes in PG&E tariff rates. This will likely require interviewing a sample of customers whose usage patterns are not easily explained using conventional analyses such as comparing usage to weather data.
- Analysis of PG&E's Smart Meter Program's past and current operational and deployment processes, policies, and procedures, against the framework of industry best practices.
The investigation will begin by focusing first on complaints from the San Joaquin Valley area, but will also evaluate the overall Smart Meter system, including sample testing of Smart Meters from other parts of PG&E's service territory. Structure will provide CPUC staff with weekly updates and interim preliminary reports that summarize the results of their evaluation at that time. The investigation is expected to be completed within four months although the timeframe may be shortened or lengthened depending on what Structure uncovers in the initial stages of the project.
Smart Meters represent an integral part of the state's "demand response" efforts. Demand response programs allow consumers and businesses to reduce the use of their electricity during times of high energy demand. Smart Meters enable the utility to provide customers with more detailed information about their energy usage at different times of day, which in turn enables those customers to manage their energy use more proactively. Smart Meters are only a small part of an overall package of information and technologies that can be used to help consumers manage their energy use and reduce their bills; other technologies such as programmable and/or communicating thermostats, can work in conjunction with Smart Meters to help consumers control their energy use more automatically.
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The CPUC implemented a plan to increase the amount of Direct Access transactions within the service territories of California’s investor-owned electric utilities (IOUs), Pacific Gas and Electric Company, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas and Electric Company.
Direct Access allows eligible customers to purchase electricity from an independent Electric Service Provider rather than from an IOU and was first instituted as an option for retail electric service throughout California in 1998. Currently, about 5 percent of total retail sales across the state are Direct Access transactions.
The authorization for increased Direct Access is being implemented in accordance with the provisions of recently enacted Senate Bill 695 (Kehoe). SB 695, which was supported by a broad coalition of stakeholders including the CPUC’s Division of Ratepayer Advocates, TURN, and each of the utilities, was signed into law by Governor Schwarzenegger October 11, 2009.
Effective April 11, 2010, all qualifying non-residential customers will be eligible to take Direct Access service, up to specified maximum annual caps that will be phased in over a four-year period. The phase-in approach will be conducted as follows: 35 percent of total allowable DA sales will be allowable in year one, 35 percent in year two, 20 percent in year three, and 10 percent in year four. After the 4-year phase-in period there will be approximately 11 percent of total retail sales being served by entities other than the IOUs. This equates roughly to the historical maximum the state reached in 2001.
The SB 695 cap limits any potential risk associated with reopening of Direct Access by eliminating uncertainty associated with load migration. The adopted phase-in schedule is designed to provide enough lead time for IOUs to account for small shifts in load and thereby avoid unwarranted cost shifting and stranded load.
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The CPUC’s April 22, 2010, voting meeting will be held in Los Angeles at 10 a.m. at the Reagan Building at 300 South Spring Street.
At voting meetings the CPUC’s five Governor-appointed Commissioners discuss and vote on proposed policies, rules, and other issues. Voting meetings are typically held once a year in Los Angeles, offering Southern California consumers and stakeholders the opportunity to attend a CPUC voting meeting in person.
The agenda for the April 22nd meeting will be available 10 days prior to the meeting.
If you require specialized accommodations in order to attend this meeting, such as sign or foreign language interpreters, please contact the CPUC’s Public Advisor's Office at 213-576-7055 or 1-866-849-8391 or by email. The Reagan Building features airport-style security, so please allow sufficient time to enter. The building is wheelchair accessible.
The meeting will be accessible via audio webcast
and a listen-only phone line at 800-857-1917, passcode 92105. Meeting results will also be posted in real time via Twitter.
This meeting will not be video webcast
in real time, but an archive will be posted within a few days of the meeting.
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Ralph Cavanagh, Senior Attorney and Co-Director of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s (NRDC) Energy Program, will lead a discussion at the CPUC’s upcoming 21st Century Thought Leaders in Essential Industries Speaker Series. The public is invited and reservations are not required for this informative session during which Mr. Cavanagh will discuss his vision for energy efficiency, clean energy, and climate change policies, followed by an interactive question and answer session.
The discussion will take place on Thursday, April 8, 2010, from 1:30 to 3 p.m. in the CPUC’s Auditorium at 505 Van Ness Avenue in San Francisco. It will also be available in real time and archived via webcast.
Mr. Cavanagh is a Senior Attorney and Co-Director of NRDC’s energy program, which he joined in 1979. In addition, Mr. Cavanagh has been a Visiting Professor of Law at Stanford and University of California, Berkeley (Boalt Hall), and from 1993-2003 he served as a member of the U.S. Secretary of Energy’s Advisory Board.
The CPUC’s Policy and Planning Division hosts the Thought Leaders Speaker Series to stimulate thought and discussion of some of the most pressing challenges facing California utility regulators and the private sector industries impacted by state policies. Leading experts from around the world take center stage to offer their expertise and vision in areas such as communications, energy, water, transportation, the environment, green jobs, and more.
Please visit Thought Leaders
to register for this event (not required, but appreciated) and for more information, including archived video webcasts of prior speakers.
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