The Structure Group, an independent organization retained by the California Public Utilities Commission to examine the smart meters installed by Pacific Gas & Electric in Northern California, issued its report today.
The meters worked. Increases in bills were largely due to a 2009 heat wave, which caused air conditioning use to spike. Structure also did not detect manufacturing problems. Structure tested 750 meters and 147 electromechanical meters, and in field, meter-to-meter and laboratory tests, found no problems.
PG&E, however, did not communicate the technology and benefits behind smart meters to customers and did not handle customer complaints well. Structure examined 1,376 complaints about smart meters from consumers and found numerous problems.
"In some cases, customers experienced multiple cancelled bills followed by re-billing, which exacerbated customer confusion and frustration. In addition, customers indicated to Structure that there was a lack of communication and notification from PG&E about their Smart Meter installation," the CPUC said of Structure's findings. "The report also said that the CPUC's handling of certain consumer complaints created confusion for the customer when the CPUC deemed the complaint closed even though the customer was still not satisfied with or did not understand PG&E's resolution of their complaint."
"The report is encouraging in terms of the performance of actual meter hardware. However, I am very concerned about PG&E's performance in terms of industry best practices and how in some of the best practices areas, PG&E's performance has actually declined," said Commissioner Dian Grueneich in a prepared statement.
The hearing is going on right now. So far, all of the speakers have stuck to talking about the alleged harm caused by electromagnetic transmissions. Some highlights:
--One individual allegedly died from smart meters, according to one witness. Granted, the witness admitted that the individual had cancer, but argued that smart meters accelerated the disease.
--Another person quoted Shakespeare and said that smart meters violated the U.S. constitution.
--Another analogized smart meter rollouts to the Nuremberg trials.
--Another witness said she felt anxiety and palpitations when visiting cities with smart meters.
--Another witness said that another person entered a home with a smart meter and felt sick. Then she put foil around the meter and felt 50 percent better.
EMF has been studied for several years, particularly since cell phones and many lights emit EMFs. The FCC, IEEE, EPA, FDA, OSHA and other organizations had studied the potential health effects with regard to cell phones and found no correlation. Still, a certain percentage of consumers and some scientists believe EMFs present a health risk.
Interestingly, the San Francisco Chronicle recently noted that smart meter complaints arising from PG&E's deployment of meters in Bakersfield have caused complaints to crop up in other areas.