The Advanced Meter technology upgrade is a natural step in our evolution of service, and reflects our commitment to delivering safe and reliable natural gas, enhancing customer service and improving air quality. Resulting operational and environmental savings will be passed on to our customers over the life of the project.
California's energy policy supports the development and implementation of cost-effective Advanced Metering systems, which can provide customers with information and tools to make more informed decisions about gas use, leading to increased conservation efforts and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.
An Advanced Meter is a communications device that automatically and securely transmits gas meter data to our service and billing center, eliminating the need for manual meter reading and enabling us to provide you with more frequent and detailed gas usage information.
How Advanced Meters Work
While your gas usage is still measured the same way it is today, the Advanced Meter communications device installation consists of applying the device to existing analog meters. The communications device is battery powered and is off most of the time. It only turns on for a fraction of a second per day (less than two minutes total per year) to securely transmit your gas meter data. Advanced Meters don't communicate with other meters or with appliances in the home.
Advanced Meters are powered by two special AA batteries, similar in technology to those used in pacemakers. We expect the batteries to have a life span of 20 years, however, if necessary, we will replace the batteries at our expense.
The new Advanced Meter technology will not have remote shut-off capabilities. However, by having more frequent and detailed access to your own gas usage information, you can identify sudden usage spikes that could indicate a leak or other unusual gas consumption. In any or all instances, if you suspect a gas leak, please contact SoCalGas® at 1-800-427-2200 immediately.
We upgraded nearly 6 million natural gas meters across our 20,000 mile service territory with Advanced Meters. This includes all residential and most business customers.
Advanced Meter Opt-Out Program
We recognize that some customers prefer to continue to have the natural gas meter read manually each month. An Advanced Meter Opt-Out Program has been established for customers who don't want an Advanced Meter installed.
The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has mandated the following fee structure for residential customers who would like to participate in the Opt-Out Program:
- Non-CARE1 customers
Initial fee: $752 - Monthly charge: $102
- CARE1 customers
Initial fee: $102 - Monthly charge: $52
Customers who don't want an Advanced Meter should call our Customer Care Center immediately at 1-800-427-2200 and ask to participate in the Opt-Out Program. The Opt-Out Program is applicable to residential customers only.
1California Alternate Rate for Energy (CARE) provides a 20 percent discount for income-qualified residential customers, as well as customers participating in public assistance programs.
2Initial fee and monthly charges will be subject to applicable taxes. The billing of the monthly charge will be limited to the first three years of program enrollment. The initial fee and monthly charges are specific to the gas meter at the residence. They do not transfer with the customer if the customer moves. If a customer moves and chooses to opt out again, there will be a new initial fee and monthly charges.
What Happens to Our Meter Readers?
We're offering employees educational assistance and career planning to help make the transition as smooth as possible. We're also one of the only utilities to use our own employees, rather than contractors, to upgrade the metering technology, thereby potentially extending their transition time. Employees also have the opportunity to move into new jobs within the company now, before their positions are eliminated.
How Much Does This Project Cost?
The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) approved a budget of $1.05 billion for the project from 2010 through 2017 to retrofit and replace an estimated 6 million natural gas meters with the wireless communications device. It is estimated that this upfront investment may yield operating and environmental benefits of more than $3.5 billion which will be passed on to customers over the life of the project.
The cost of Advanced Meters, as with all meters or equipment purchased by SoCalGas, is part of our regular business expenses and is recovered in rates. There is no separate line item for Advanced Meters. At its peak, the cost is about $2 per month and this cost will go down over time.
Advanced Meter Privacy and Security
Our Advanced Meter modules and the associated network communications system operate in the 450 to 470 megahertz (MHz) bands and 800/1900 cellular frequency, respectively. The technology products we use for our Advanced Meter project comply with U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) guidelines for human exposure to RF energy (FCC OET bulletin 65).
We continually monitor regulatory and scientific developments related to human exposure to RF energy. We rely upon the expert findings within science related to RF exposures and potential health effects through the following organizations and agencies:
- World Health Organization (WHO)
- Federal Communications Commission (FCC)
- Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA)
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration (USFDA)
- Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI)
- Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE)
According to these groups, no adverse short- or long-term health effects have been shown to occur from the radio frequency signals produced by Advanced Meters or other such wireless networks.
Radio Frequency Exposure
There are three key factors that contribute to RF exposure:
Signal duration: SoCalGas' Advanced Meters normally transmit a signal for a fraction of a second per day or for a total of less than two minutes per year.
RF energy: The RF energy emitted by an Advanced Meter is considerably less than that from common items used every day that emit RF, such as laptops, cell phones and baby monitors.
Distance from source: Advanced Meters will be located in the same location as the gas meter. When the Advanced Meter is transmitting, the exposure level is thousands of times lower than the general population exposure limits set by the FCC:
At eight inches from the front of the meter, exposure is almost 10,000 times lower than the 450-470 MHz FCC exposure limits; At two feet away, exposure drops to 90,000 times below FCC exposure limits.
Radio Frequency Comparison Chart
|Source||Radio Frequency Output Compared to Maximum Output from an Advanced Meter|
|Talking on a cellular phone1||up to 1,000,000 times more|
|Maximum exposure level operating a microwave oven||up to 500,000 times more|
|Using a laptop computer with a wireless internet connection||up to 5,000 times more|
|Most electric smart meters||Up to 500 times more|
|Advanced gas meter||1 times (reference level)|
1Cell phones are designed to reduce RF output to the minimum required for reliable communication, but may reach peak power output when signal strength is limited.
NOTE: Advanced Meters should not interfere with any wireless devices. The Advanced Meter and its communications network operate on exclusive FCC-licensed frequencies not used in the home.
Additional Resources About Radio Frequency
We understand that some customers may have concerns regarding radio frequency transmissions. Here are several links to additional information and resources:
SoCalGas Radio Frequency (RF) Fact Sheet
- California Council on Science and Technology Health Impacts (4/11)*
- Utility Telecom Council Article (article available to members only)*
- EPRI "RF Exposure Levels from Smart Meters" (PDF)
- EPRI Comment: "Sage Report on RF from Smart Meters" (PDF)
- EPRI Comments: A Perspective on Two Smart Meter Memoranda (PDF)
- FCC RF Safety Q&A*
- FCC Sage Letter World Health Organization (WHO) Documents WHO RF Fact Sheet*
- WHO Electromagnetic Sensitivity*
- WHO IARC Whitepaper*
- WHO EMF & Mobile Phones*
- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration Radiating Emitting Products*
- Interference with Pacemakers and Other Medical Devices*
- Environmental Defense Fund*
- American Cancer Society*