By Bret Lane
If we’re to believe Susan Shelley’s commentary “We don’t need utilities, cars monitoring our behavior” (Perspectives, March 15), California state agencies and SoCalGas are using automated meters to spy on customers and share details about their lives.
What advanced meters actually do is measure how much gas people use and then securely deliver the information to SoCalGas. Contrary to the writer’s assertion, they don’t transmit personal information but send encrypted data to our system, which we present to customers in their online account. Anything SoCalGas shares must be done with customer consent or necessary to lawfully conduct our business or comply with laws and public safety.
Ms. Shelley also claims those who opt out will pay $ 10 monthly fees forever. Again, not true. A small number of customers — less than two-tenths of one percent — have chosen to not upgrade and will pay the fee for 36 months. SoCalGas respects customer choice. The fee covers the labor, vehicle, maintenance and other costs needed to keep a separate manual meter-reading service.
Advanced meters give customers new conservation tools and programs that help families and local businesses save energy and money. By end of last year, our new meters were providing accurate, automated billing for more than 2.7 million SoCalGas customers. Our customers actually gain privacy since they’ll no longer need to provide keys to locks, leave gates open or confine pets to allow meter readings.
Advanced meters are also helping fight climate change. Through customer conservation efforts and by taking service vehicles off the road, we expect to cut 140,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions each year. This supports state and federal energy policies and is good stewardship of our environment.
For more than a decade, advanced metering has been adopted around the world because it is a more reliable and accurate way to measure and conserve resources. Halfway through its completion, our advanced meter project is already delivering on its promises: to the benefit of our customers, our communities and our environment.
Our goal is to better serve our customers and advanced meters enable us to do that. That’s the simple truth.
We are happy to answer any questions the community may have about advanced meters. Please call us at 800-427-2200 or visit socalgas.com/advanced.
Bret Lane is chief operating officer of SoCalGas.