Southern California Edison (SCE) began installing new data transmitting devices, also known as SmartConnect meters, at Calabasas homes on Monday, though homeowners still can opt out of having one on their properties.
The local rollout of the devices that electronically send power usage data to SCE is part of a much larger effort that spans neighboring communities like Thousand Oaks, Agoura Hills and Topanga.
The new smart meters, which will be installed on virtually every home and business in Calabasas in the coming months, replace analog meters that had to be read manually.
Corix is the company SCE hired to install the devices that take about 5-12 minutes to be swapped with an analog meter, said Doug Malousis, manager of district readiness for the power company.
Homeowners who don't want a smart meter installed on their property can opt out by calling 800-810-2369 (English) or 800-477-4455 (Spanish).
An one-time $75 fee will be charged for opting out followed by a monthly $10 surcharge to cover costs associated with manually reading meters, Malousis said.
Residents can turn installers away at the door if they don't want a smart meter, but a call to SCE to sign up for the opt out program is still required.
"Merely by you telling an installer that they want to opt out, they are not signed up, they have to call our call center," Malousis said.
But opting out doesn't allay the concerns of Topanga resident and People's Initiative Director Elizabeth Barris, who says she is worried the levels of radio frequency emitted by the smart meters are harmful to one's health.
"Even if you opt out, you will still be exposed to your neighbor's emission," she said.
On its website, SCE says emission levels are less than 3 percent of the Federal Communications Commission's maximum threshold when standing a foot away from a smart meter.
Malousis added that he witnessed a test involving 12 smart meters simultaneously transmitting data with radio frequency levels still below FCC limits.
In addition, a number of third party studies have deemed the devices safe, paving the way for the 4.4 million that are already installed in Southern California, Malousis said.
Barris says she also has privacy concerns and that SCE may pass on power usage data to other interested parties.
But Malousis said no data ever leaves the hands of SCE.
"We can't tell what personal appliance is being turned," he said, adding: "We collect purely kilowatt hours."
Though Malousis said opt out fees are to cover employee costs, Barris labels those charges an "abuse of power."
"Edison is a monopoly and they're abusing their public utility status," Barris said.
Overall, less than 1 percent of SCE customers in the Thousand Oaks, Westlake Village, Agoura Hills, Calabasas, Hidden Hills, Topanga and other neighboring towns have opted out of a smart meter installation, according to the Acorn.
The to send a letter to SCE urging to let customers opt out of smart meter installations.
The People's Initiative is about smart readers on Wednesday in Woodland Hills.