PG&E SmartMeter leaves me confused

    The pamphlet has enticing images of bar graphs that would allow me to see where my energy usage was in the tiered electricity pricing model.


    I am rarely excited about anything PG&E sends me.

    Okay, I was excited when we first installed our solar energy system. I waited in great anticipation for the first statement which would net out my solar energy generation credits with my overall power usage.

    A short aside about my experience receiving my first electricity bill after installing solar panels:

    The bill that arrived in the mail (yes, there is no online way that I know of for receiving the bills you receive after installing a solar energy system) had some bar graphs as an attempt to make sense of the energy generation and usage data. I could understand how much was being added to my annual true up total. For homes with solar energy systems, you had the choice to pay the difference between what you use and generate at the end of the year from the date your system went live.

    Overall, the statement would have been much more useful and meaningful if it told me the value of energy I generated in dollars so I could have a better sense of how much my Sunpower system was saving me. To be far, Sunpower monitoring system doesn’t really tell me this either.

    Isn’t this what every homeowner that installs a solar energy system wants to know? Sure, green is great. However, solar energy panels are a significant investment and knowing that green is not only the right thing to do, but also a financial savvy investment makes them much more attractive.

    I felt similar excitement after having the SmartMeter thermostat installed. The process was relatively smooth and the technician from PG&E was very friendly and explained how to use the control panel. This was several months back.

    A few weeks ago, I was reminded of this technology when a brochure entitled, “See your power in detail. How to use SmartMeter technology to manage your energy.” arrived in my mailbox.

    I thought: “Great! This would make is easier for me to be green and save on my monthly electricity expenses. Finally, the thermostat that was installed would connect to my online account with PG&E.”

    The pamphlet has enticing images of bar graphs I would be able to access after logging in that would allow me to see where my energy usage was in the tiered electricity pricing model. Excited by the colorful graphs and claims to help me understand my household energy consumption, I logged into my PG&E online account and navigated to the “My SmartMeter” section on the left navigation.

    What appeared was disappointing. There were not all the graphs shown in the pamphlet, and the ones that were there did not look as slick as what the brochure would have me believe. More importantly, much of the information only tracked my gas consumption, not my electricity usage which is what the majority of my energy bill consists of as most appliances in my home run on electricity. The claim to help me track where I fall in the tiered electricity pricing schedule was also not available.

    It may be that this capability is not there yet. Or it could also be because my household’s electricity information is in a different system on PG&E’s side because of the solar energy system we have installed. If this is the case, then PG&E has missed one of their key early adopter for the SmartMeter initiative. Those homes that have solar energy systems installed are probably one of the segments of the population most interested in energy conservation. The SmartMeter system should be designed to work even better with those that have solar energy systems.

    After much excitement, the PG&E SmartMeter initiative has left me confused. Much effort has been put into designing a slick brochure and the PG&E website landing page. However, my attempts to complete tasks online that would empower me to have a better understanding and control of my household energy consumption were met with failure.

    PG&E, I so want to love the SmartMeter program.

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    • Paul Parmley

      Hi Loni,

      I saw your post about your new SmartMeter device, and am glad to see you are interested in checking your usage information online. One important note is that after your new meter is installed, it can take between 60 and 90 days for the wireless meter network in your neighborhood to be activated. Before we switch your account over to being SmartMeter read, we need to confirm the meter communication is set up, and we’ll even have a human meter reader take the next few readings to compare with the electronic readings we are receiving.

      So in a few months, you’ll be able to take advantage of the many online tools to help manage your daily energy use. Hope that helps!

      Paul

      • Hi Paul – Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. I’ll be on the look out in the next couple of months for more capabilities appearing in my PG&E online account.

        Looking forward to it and will definitely update our readers on the experience.

        Best,
        Loni

      • Wow. I am amazed someone really did give a decent answer on Smart Meters in a Web 2.0 setting

    • PS

      I’m told PG&E does not offer smart meters for net generating and/or solar homes. Is that true?

      • JustSam

         not at present — My net generating meter was installed last month and the PGE installers said no smart meters were available for such uses, but it may come later

    • Anthony Cooper

      I just got my solar system installed on Thursday. I got the new Smart meter. Seems this article is old so I don’t know if you want an update on how the new meters work.

      • Hi, thanks – an update would be great. Much appreciated!

    • Anthony Cooper

      Just got my Solar system installed. It has Enphase micro inverters
      https://enlighten.enphaseenergy.com/public_systems I also got the new PG&E NEM Smart meter. The display on the meter scrolls through the following (Screen ID) information: (888) Display Check, (99) Instanteneous KW, (1) Current Date, (2) Current Time, (4) Total KWh (Meter is installed with 50,000 KWh then increases or decreases based on usage), Time Of Use screens for E6 metering. (7) KWH Peak, (9) KWH Partial Peak, (13) KWH Off Peak.