Today in Cleantech

So, Pacific Gas & Electric has given us its plan for customers who don’t want radio-enabled smart meters attached to their homes — we’ll turn off the radio, but you’ll have to pay hundreds of dollars to cover the extra costs. As one might expect, the reactions to PG&E’s plan are all over the board — and plenty of people still aren’t happy. Let’s leave out the complaints of people who think wireless meters cause health problems — I don’t think they’ll be fully satisfied until every radio, cellphone, microwave and other RF-emitting device is done away with, which isn’t going to happen. Rather, let’s concentrate on the costs PG&E is proposing to charge — an up-front fee of $270 and monthly fees of $14 for most customers, with discounts for low-income customers, or a lower up-front fee of $135 in exchange for monthly fees of $20. That’s not just to pay for the meter reader jobs PG&E thought it could do away with once it got old-school meters replaced — it’s also to cover the costs of keeping the mesh network up and running, since it requires each meter to serve as a repeater for its neighbors. Just how the California Public Utilities Commission will react to these proposed charges is unclear, although it did say PG&E could charge “reasonable” extra rates to cover the extra costs. Also unclear is how the proposal will affect smart meter rollouts in other states with RF-fearing utility customers, such as Maine. Stay tuned for more details in the weeks to come.