The Gas Company seeks approval to install automated meters

Technology will help reduce energy use, costs

Sep 30, 2008

Media Contact:
Stephanie Donovan

Southern California Gas Co.

(877) 866-2066


        LOS ANGELES, Sept. 30, 2008 – Southern California Gas Co. (The Gas Company) has filed an application with the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) for approval to upgrade approximately 6 million natural gas meters with automated, two-way communications by 2015. 

        While the meters still will use the existing mechanical dials to measure customers’ natural gas consumption, the communications module will collect the data more frequently and make it available to consumers sooner.  In the future, the new modules will lead to significant operating efficiencies and will provide utility customers near real-time usage information that can help them to make more informed decisions so they can reduce their energy use and lower their utility bills.  The information will be accessible through the Web and home energy-management systems, among other avenues.
        “Nearly 85 percent of the benefits of installing this technology will be realized through operational efficiencies that will help reduce costs,” said Anne Shen Smith, senior vice president of customer services for The Gas Company.  “Our proposal also supports the state’s energy policy focused on increasing energy efficiency and offers other environmental benefits as well.” 

        Utility officials said automation will eliminate more than 6 million driving miles annually related to meter reading, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by more than 3,000 tons of carbon dioxide – the equivalent of taking 1,000 cars off the road.

        Other benefits include greater customer privacy because of the elimination of on-site meter reads and quicker resolution of bill-related issues due to problems with meter access. 

        The 1.1 billion proposed project could receive regulatory approval in mid-2009, when The Gas Company would start investing in the program, including development of the information systems and new communications network.  The installation of the new gas meter modules could begin as early as 2011.

        Pacific Gas & Electric, Southern California Edison and San Diego Gas & Electric – The Gas Company’s sister utility – already have received CPUC approval to move forward with their “smart metering” projects. 

        Utility officials said about 1,000 positions would be phased out over four years between 2011 and 2015 – primarily in meter-reading.  Most of these are part-time jobs that likely will be absorbed through normal workforce attrition. 
        “The technology also will create some new opportunities for employees, though any impact is still years away,” said Smith.  “We are committed to making the transition as smooth as possible for employees.”

        Southern California Gas Co. has been delivering clean, safe and reliable natural gas to its customers for more than 140 years.  It is the nation’s largest natural gas distribution utility, providing safe and reliable energy to 20.3 million consumers through 5.7 million meters in more than 500 communities.  The company’s service territory encompasses approximately 20,000 square miles in diverse terrain throughout central and Southern California, from Visalia to the Mexican border.  The Gas Company is a regulated subsidiary of Sempra Energy (NYSE: SRE).  Sempra Energy, based in San Diego, is a Fortune 500 energy services holding company.