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Glendale Water & Power: Smart meters to stay

Customers have asked to opt out from the new technology, citing health concerns.

November 08, 2011|By Brittany Levine, brittany.levine@latimes.com
  • Utility Partners of America field technician Robert Jordan installs smart electric meters at an apartment complex on Del Valle Avenue in Glendale. Glendale Water & Power is waiting to let customers opt-out of the service. (Raul Roa/Staff Photographer)
Utility Partners of America field technician Robert…

Glendale Water & Power plans to wait on creating an opt-out policy for those who oppose smart meters until a California regulatory body decides on the matter.

Some customers have been stumping at City Council meetings claiming the new meters emit signals that make them sick, even though officials say the radiofrequency waves emitted from smart meters meet Federal Communications Commission guidelines.

Members of the group have demanded that they be allowed to opt out of the smart-meter grid, but Craig Kuennen, a Glendale Water & Power official assigned to the Smart Grid Initiative, told city commissioners Monday that they’re waiting on a ruling from the California Public Utilities Commission.

“We’re waiting for the [commission] on how they’re going to handle these opt-outs, and then we’ll take our lead from them,” he said.

Smart meters have replaced most analog meters in Glendale with technology that digitally tracks energy and water use in real time. Many utilities have transitioned to the digital technology in hopes that customers who know more about their energy consumption and its cost will change their behavior.

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Glendale has set up 120,000 smart meters, but has allowed some customers to delay their installation until the state rules. About 70 electricity and 30 water customers have asked to be put on Glendale’s delay list, Kuennen said.

The California Public Utilities Commission is researching ways to respond to smart-meter opt-out demands. Once a determination is reached, Glendale officials plan to use that as a model in recommending a local policy to the City Council, said Ned Bassin, Glendale Water & Power’s assistant general manager of customer services.

Marzia Zafar, business and community outreach coordinator for the California Public Utilities Commission, said a draft policy is expected for review on Dec. 15.

Although all the meters have been installed, meter readers have been checking them manually as a test.

Kuennen said the tests have been going smoothly, and the utility plans to begin billing from the digital reads in February. At about the same time, a website is scheduled to debut allowing customers to check their water and energy consumption in real time.

The utility expects to spend about $68 million on the smart-grid project, according to a city report. So far it’s spent about $37 million on the electricity portion and about $17 million on the water component. The utility received about $20 million from the Department of Energy to help pay for the system.

Glendale Water & Power and smart-meter opponents plan to hold forums on the new technology this month.

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