Smart meter program encourages energy conservation in California

FOLSOM, Calif.

For the first time, the state's three investor-owned utility companies, PG&E, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric are offering rebates to their enrolled smart meter customers for cutting back on electricity usage on certain critical summer days. The less they use, the bigger the rebate.

"We believe that they're very effective, and they'll be more effective when more customers sign up to be notified," said Larry Oliva with Southern California Edison. "If we have about 12 events over the summer, a customer could save about $100."

Conservation is music to the ears of the California Independent System Operator, which runs the state's power grid. There's only so much electricity available, and when everyone cranks up their air conditioners, that makes it harder to avoid outages. But paying customers to conserve could be a game changer.

"It's good for the power grid. It helps us build that cushion of reserves, in case we suddenly lose a transmission line or a power plant. And it's really good for the consumer because they're going to come out ahead and keep costs down," said Stephanie McCorkle with Cal ISO.

In these tough times, some customers say a credit on their bill sounds great.

"If they're going to pay us to do something that we're already trying to do, i.e., save money and cut expenses, of course, we'd do that, sure," said utility customer Bob Plank.

For others, even a rebate won't motivate them to lay off the air conditioner.

"It'd be really, really hard. I just like being comfortable. I don't like sweating, especially in the house," said utility customer James Anderson.

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