In a unanimous decision, the CPUC adopted a set of program modifications, which allow PG&E to recover costs associated with replacing Smart Meters or letting customers keep older analog devices.
The CPUC said that the Smart Meters are meant to help reduce energy consumption by wirelessly monitoring usage and allowing customers to opt-in to energy conservation programs. .
The metering systems are being installed as part of a nationwide "smart grid" in 25 states around the country, CPUC President Michael Peevey said.
Opponents of the meters argue that the meters emit harmful electromagnetic
signals and radiation, and that FCC standards don't go far enough. Critics have also raised concerns about the privacy and data security issues related to the meters, and about .
Peevey quoted studies by the Federal Communications Commission and , which concluded that potential negative health effects from SmartMeters had not been "identified or confirmed."
Customers electing to keep analog meters will be assessed an initial fee of $75 and a monthly charge of $10. Low-income customers can opt out of the Smart Meter program for an initial fee of $10 and an ongoing monthly charge of $5.
Speakers from across Northern California packed the commission CPUC auditorium in San Francisco, some demanding that the CPUC reconsider charging fees for customers who opt-out of the program, others demanding an end to wireless meters altogether.
Residents of Santa Cruz, San Francisco, Marin and San Luis Obispo counties claimed that SmartMeters were responsible for headaches, dizziness, insomnia, and heart palpitations.
Fairfax, along with unincorporated Marin, continue to have a . In Fairfax, however, . In unincorporated Marin, the Sheriff and District Attorney have said they have no intention of enforcing the ordinance, but in Fairfax the moratorium has more backing from the town. It is unclear, though, if PG&E begins installing the meters in Fairfax, what steps the town will take to stop the utility.
The CPUC has said they will consider other concerns in a Phase 2 hearing, including the issue of community-wide opt-outs.
Fairfax Councilman Larry Bragman urged the CPUC to enact a moratorium on installations while considering these issues.
"Given the level of concern in our communities, there will undoubtedly be many thousands of customers who will elect to opt-out based upon individual medical concerns, and they should not, and cannot, be forced to pay a fee to do so," Bragman also stated in a press release.
Peevey said that the CPUC was responding to the concerns raised by the public by offering an avenue to opt out of the SmartMeter program.
"For those of you who want to opt out, you now have the option," Peevey said.
Do you think the paid opt-out goes far enough?
-- Bay City News contributed to this article