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SDG&E introduces new conservation technology to public

ENCINITAS — An official with San Diego Gas & Electric gave a presentation to City Council Jan. 21 outlining new technology available to homeowners and businesses that may conserve electricity and save money.
Claudia Carrillo, a public affairs manager with the power company, said smart meters are digital meters with two-way communication that send energy use information to SDG&E. Unlike existing meters, smart meters have a computer chip that records energy usage. In the future, energy use information will be recorded every hour at your home and every 15 minutes at a business.
SDG&E will replace all electric meters and upgrade all gas meters with smart meters over the next three years. Carrillo said 1.4 million electric meters and 900,000 gas meters will be replaced at a cost of $572 million.
“North county is the first area slated for replacement,” Carrillo told the council. Residences and small businesses will be first to receive the new meter.
“This (device) will help customers budget their energy use better,” Carrillo said. Despite energy conservation measures put in place over the years, the number of days when a power shortage could occur has been increasing, according to Carrillo.
Councilwoman Teresa Barth said the information was valuable not only from an individual perspective but also looking at the foreseeable impacts of using less electricity in the county. “I think if people in Encinitas knew that lessening their energy consumption could reduce the need for new power plants then I think this meter would be useful in tracking their consumption,” she said after the meeting.
Besides providing customers with more knowledge about their energy consumption, the technology has other benefits as well according to the representative. “Smart meters will help SDG&E find outages quickly so we can identify and fix the problem faster,” she said. “Right now, when there is a major outage we know about it but the smaller ones take longer to recognize.”
Like existing meters, the cost of the new meter is part of the regular energy bill. The cost is approximately $2.50 per month.
Carrillo said that an additional benefit to the new meters is privacy. Because smart meters send information electronically to SDG&E daily, meter readers will no longer have to enter a property.
With the information it provides, smart meters can help save energy which saves natural resources and reduces the need to build new power plants or other equipment. “This is a step toward conservation and greening the grid,” Carrillo said.
“It’s great that SDG&E is using the technology that’s available for residents to better monitor their energy use,” Harold Jenkins said. The Encinitas resident said the community is becoming more aware of the importance of conserving energy. “This is California,” he said. “We know about rolling blackouts and when to use our dishwashers and to unplug unused appliances. Now the trick is getting the rest of the country on board.”