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How PG&E's Smart Meters Work

Learn how the wireless meter-reading devices work

The PG&E Smart Meters employ a combination of cellular mesh networks and radio frequencies to replace the traditional gas and electric meters. Meter readers will no longer have to come to people's homes.

The wireless Smart Meters record residents' electricity usage data every hour. Every four hours, that data is then sent to a transponder device on a nearby telephone pole using a radio frequency. (Gas meters will transmit the data to the transponder every six hours.) The transponder sends the data back to PG&E using a secure cellular network. For commercial customers, the meters record the data every 15 minutes instead of hourly.

Instead of one data point of usage per month, there will now be 720 data points per month for residential customers.

An additional radio in the meter sends the data back into the house. This means that if customers choose to buy additional devices currently being developed by companies like Cisco, then those devices will read the data and can tell the customer exactly what appliances are using how much energy. If customers don't wish to buy the additional device, they can still log into pge.com and track their usage data hourly with the Smart Meter program.

The communication modules are two-way, meaning PG&E also has the ability to turn off the meters remotely.

PG&E argues that the meters are part of creating a smart grid that will allow customers to better understand their energy use and are the first step in implementing demand response pricing.

Implementation of the meters began in Marin in July and will continue through 2011. PG&E intends to spend $2.2 billion to implement 10 million meters in the state.

The electric meters were manufactured by Landis + Gyr and General Electric. The gas meters were manufactured by General Electric. The communication devices for the electric meters were manufactured by Silver Springs Network and for the gas meters by Aclara.

Allyka September 29, 2010 at 10:25 PM
SMART meters are necessary for the SMART grid, a regionwide, eventually nationwide, change in how utility companies buy and distribute energy. The SMART meters alone have no particular benefit to residential customers. They are useless to monitor useage. Who has time to make use of 750 data points per month or log in online to check? If rates are constant across 24 hours, most of us have a good idea what we are using and spending. That promotional spin is officious, condescending, and just plain silly.
Kelly Dunleavy O'Mara September 29, 2010 at 10:34 PM
At the last PG&E meeting, someone made the point that a better explanation needs to made of the smart grid and what it will do and entail, which is probably a good idea.
Mikko Ahonen December 07, 2010 at 10:31 AM
I have collected research papers of various microwave transmitters and health effects: http://www.chronicexposure.org It explains why especially these MeshNet alternatives are risky ones. Consumer should have opportunity to opt-out / select a wired/Ethernet alternative. Take care Mikko
MV Resident March 11, 2011 at 07:57 PM
SmartMeters may be a part of a smart grid, but alone do not constitute a smart grid. The enhancement and upgrading of our aging power grids can be done without new radio transmitting billing meters. The purposes for the meters is to eventually eliminate the meter reading jobs, sell a bunch of meters and enrich the corporations that make and install the meters. They used federal stimulus money to eliminate meter reading jobs, that is very important to the corporations.
G. Lilly April 04, 2011 at 04:32 PM
The meters will ultimately be used to penalize people who are deemed to be using too much electricity, natural gas or both. This will then lead to financial penalties or sur charges for the excessive use without consideration for a home occupied by one person verses 8 people, without consideration for residents with certain disabilities, without consideration for people who are gone all day to work verses retired and home all day etc. That may get rectified to some extent by more intrusiveness requiring customers reveal everything about their life. Remember that the utilities are regulated by the government and therefore answerable to them with no information withheld. It will be little or no inconvenience to the wealthy, but it will be a terrific hardship upon the poor and middle class.
Colleen Proppe August 26, 2011 at 03:16 PM
I honestly feel happy about our Smart Meter. 1. No creepy guys with sticks come walking down our driveway and freaking me and our dog out to read the meter any more. Hey, would you really want that job? They probably have more dog encounters than a postal worker. 2. I do want to go online and learn about the time of day and costs of running electricity in the day vs evening. There is a lot we can learn from the information provided, if we choose to do so. 3. I'd rather spend my free time helping my kids at school or enjoying Marin than arguing about technology progress and fighting with the Electric Co. I don't have the same angst about this that it seems many in Fairfax seem to have. Pick your battles in life to stay sane- this one doesn't seem worth fighting about for me.
Colleen Proppe August 26, 2011 at 04:58 PM
PS... I love how you can login online at http://www.pge.com/myhome/myaccount/ and see all your energy useage. The PG&E Smart Meter website is really user friendly, and you can find ways to curb your usage. Our bill has DECREASED since the Smart Meter was installed, and it tells you exactly what has affected or changed your bill. It's very interesting to see all this information. They even have an app that works for smart phones and gives you "Alerts" if your energy usage changes, so you can adjust consumption, etc... I like the Smart Meter so far.
Sandi Maurer September 18, 2011 at 04:12 PM
I have posted a summary of the CPUC smart meter opt out workshop on the EMF Safety Network website. It is very important to note that it was admitted by the utility vendors that smart meters are transmitting "chattering" RF pulses constantly, many times a minute, not 6 times a day as stated in this article. http://emfsafetynetwork.org/?p=5850 Sandi Maurer
Inside9 May 16, 2013 at 08:43 PM
PLEASE NOTE: I have no smart meter and I can pull up all my energy usage on the PG&E website. There is NO added advantage to WE THE PEOPLE. It all goes to PG&E who can lay off their workforce and turn electricity off remotely. Smart meters are just now being installed in DC and some of the people responsible for the technology are starting to get upset. -That's the plan. Install it out in the country where its harder to send meter readers, then make people in the cities feel like they "have been missing out". I know people with banks of meters on their walls who are truly suffering ill health effects. See http://takebackyourpower.net/

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