After months of resistance, the California Public Utilities Commission agreed to examine allowing Pacific Gas & Electric customers to opt out of wireless \u201csmart\u201d meter installations. If permitted, ratepayers would be on the hook for the unknown price of opting out. \u201cIt\u2019s clear the time has come for some sort of customer opt-out,\u201d said CPUC president Mike Peevey March 10. He made the announcement before a crowd of wireless meter opponents concerned about the health effects of the devices. \u201cSmart\u201d meters communicate energy usage data to utilities using radio signals. Peevey said he recently asked PG&E to submit multiple options to the commission to facilitate alternatives to wireless meters. The utility\u2019s president, Chris Johns, agreed to do so, he added. PG&E plans to file opt-out options with the commission by March 24, acknowledged utility spokesperson Paul Moreno. PG&E has been studying alternatives for the past couple months, he said. \u201cWe take our customers\u2019 concerns seriously.\u201d While Moreno called it too early to address the technical aspects and cost of opt-out options, he did note it\u2019s possible to turn off meter communications systems. Meters could then be read manually. The CPUC\u2019s action came in response to a growing number of cities and counties adopting resolutions or ordinances calling for a moratorium on PG&E wireless meter installations. Local governments have taken action in response to PG&E customers who have claimed sensitivity to radio frequencies. To date, seven counties and 26 cities have adopted such ordinances or resolutions, Joshua Hart, who heads StopSmartMeters.com, told the commission. On March 8, the Lake County Board of Supervisors adopted an ordinance to halt meter installations. Another change in the equation is that there are two new CPUC members, Mike Florio and Catherine Sandoval. Both are considered consumer-friendly. Opponents say radio emissions from the meters can cause memory loss, heart palpitations, and other physical impacts. The CPUC, for much of the past year, has resisted citizen pressure to impose moratoria on wireless meter installations. When health advocates first approached the CPUC, state utility regulators maintained it wasn\u2019t their job to address possible health impacts. They insisted that the duty instead rested with the Federal Communications Commission. The FCC, however, did not become involved in the controversy. The CPUC then agreed to examine health literature. Late last year, Assemblymember Jared Huffman (D-San Rafael) introduced AB 37 Dec. 6, 2010, to allow consumers to opt out of utility \u201csmart\u201d meter installations (Current, Dec. 10, 2010). While passage of Huffman\u2019s legislation isn\u2019t certain, today\u2019s announcement by Peevey marks a further softening of the commission\u2019s position on wireless meters. The CPUC president, however, noted that concern about smart meters seems largely restricted to PG&E customers. Some of the activists testifying suggested that may be because the utility\u2019s meters send out more powerful radio signals than the meters installed by other utilities. Controversy over PG&E\u2019s \u201csmart\u201d meter program began when customers in San Joaquin Valley claimed their power bills jumped dramatically after the digital energy measurement systems were installed in 2009. The chorus of complaints built to the point that the CPUC ordered the utility to fund a study of the accuracy of the new meters. The study found that the meters were accurate, but that PG&E did not do a good job of deploying the devices in the valley or handling subsequent customer complaints, which stemmed from human billing errors rather than inaccurate measurements. (Current, Sept. 3, 2010). Concerns about the health effects of the digital meters arose last year\u2014at first in Marin, Sonoma, and Santa Cruz Counties\u2014then quickly spread throughout much of the utility\u2019s service area.