Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Smart Meter, Dumb System

PG&E has been putting a lot of money into public relations. Considering the mess they made in San Bruno, I suppose this was necessary; but the picture is bigger than a single case of negligent maintenance. It also extends to how those of us stuck with being customers get to monitor our billing.

When "smart meters" were launched, PG&E launched a major television advertising campaign explain how we would all be able to use monitoring data to see why we were paying what we had to for each month's bill. I have been playing with the Web site since it became available. For the most part I find it no more informative than the printed statement I would get each month that compared my usage for the month for that of the same month in the previous year.

Nevertheless, there was a major dip in last month's bill; and it was interesting to put that number in the context of month-by-month activity, rather than just where things stood a year earlier. Today I examined my latest statement and discovered that the number had bounced up again. However, when I went to the My Energy Use page on the PG&E Web site, I discovered that the data for this month's bill was not available! In other words I was getting more useful information when it came in paper form than when it was coming from the "smart meters." This leads me to wonder whether those meters are actually providing accurate data (or, for what matter, if they are providing data at all). If PG&E was capable of "faking it" with their maintenance reporting activities, why should we trust their usage data?

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