FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE PRESS RELEASE
Contact: Terrie Prosper, 415.703.1366,
news@cpuc.ca.gov  

CPUC SELECTS INDEPENDENT EVALUATOR
FOR PG&E SMART METERS
 

SAN FRANCISCO, March 30, 2010 - The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) today announced it has selected The Structure Group to conduct an independent evaluation of Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) Smart Meters. 

After a solicitation, Structure was chosen from among 15 companies or teams that applied to test and validate 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.  

"I share the concerns expressed by consumers and members of the Legislature that this independent evaluation get underway, so I am pleased to announce our progress today and our emergence from the red tape of state contracting processes," said CPUC President Michael R. Peevey. "Structure is a leading expert on Smart Meters and downstream billing processes and their personnel will have wide access to PG&E's systems to conduct their investigation." 

The CPUC used several criteria in evaluating the companies that participated in its solicitation, including knowledge and experience with Smart Metering technologies, the ability to formulate lines of inquiry, experience with designing solutions and investigation methods, and the ability to function as a prime contractor to oversee this project. The CPUC said it selected Structure because it demonstrated excellent skills and experience across several categories.  

The contract value is approximately $1.4 million and is structured to provide flexibility in adapting the scope of work, if necessary, to accommodate intermediate findings of the investigation. The CPUC is directly managing and funding the contract and has ordered PG&E to reimburse the CPUC for the expense of the contract. 

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.  

The Structure Group is a leading provider of consulting services and business solutions to utilities and energy market participants. Structure has assisted more than 120 utilities and energy companies on business transformation projects. Structure offers comprehensive consulting services and deep energy industry expertise through six consulting practices: Smart Grid, Competitive Market Solutions, Energy Trading and Risk Management, Energy Management and Control Systems, Utility Enterprise Asset Management, and Regulatory Compliance. For more information on The Structure Group, please visit www.thestructuregroup.com or contact Phyllis Goodson at Phyllis.goodson@thestructuregroup.com or 910-616-9160. 


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