A plan to let Southern California Edison customers who don't want new wireless smart meters at their homes -- preferring the older analog models -- was given final approval by the California Public Utilities Commission this week.
The opt-out plan was requested by the San Diego-based Utility Consumers Action Network, and also applies to San Diego Gas & Electric customers.
Tentative approval of the arrangement was given last month by an administrative law judge.
Opponents of the smart meters expressed concerns over perceived health risks and privacy issues.
"As we move toward a more advanced electricity grid, smart meters will offer customers real benefits,'' commission President Michael Peevey said.
"However, if a customer does not want to have a smart meter, our decision today gives them that option.''
Erwin Furukawa, senior vice president of customer service at Edison, said the company supports the commission's decision allowing customers to opt out of the program.
"Customer choice is something that is important to us, and we're glad that the CPUC was able to come to a timely decision to accommodate all our customers,'' he said.
Starting May 9, Edison customers can opt out by calling (800) 810-2369.
Customers already on a delay list can call the number to opt out and keep their current meters. Customers who already have a smart meter can have it exchanged for another model that was previously in place, according to the company.
Edison customers who choose the analog model meter will have to pay $75 up front and an extra $10 monthly. Income-qualified customers would be charged $10 initially and $5 more per month.
Smart meters are digital, two-way communicating devices designed to better manage the regional power grid, keeping better track of customers' power usage. Customers with the smart meters can check their daily energy usage online, receive usage text or email alerts and track their usage to ensure they remain within a set budget, according to Edison.
The CPUC also approved 19 measurements for determining the effectiveness of smart grid technology being rolled out by the utilities, including the number of smart meter malfunctions during power outages, increases in the number of consumer complaints over accuracy of the new devices and the number of smart meters replaced annually before the end of their expected useful life.