Efficiency and conservation have become well-established elements of the green power movement, and, in that regard, smart meters have become one of the primary tools to help consumers and utilities do their part.

Although they have encountered opposition in some locales, adoption rates of the technology continues to grow, and one California utility has emerged as something of a standard-bearer.

This spring, Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) announced that it had reached a customer milestone. The San Francisco-based company, which serves Northern and Central California, has completed more than 90 percent of its installation program, having upgraded more than 9 million customer meters to smart technology. With those installations, the company noted that most of the 15 million people it serves now have access to the benefits of smart meters.

PG&E praised smart meters for giving its customers access to a variety of cost-saving and energy-conserving tools, such as energy-use analysis, usage notifications and voluntary rate programs. Customers also have online access to usage data on the company’s website, www.pge.com/myenergy. The information allows customers to view their daily and hourly electric usage and compare their household’s energy patterns with similar homes in their neighborhood.

Smart meters don’t just help customers. They also help the utility. PG&E notes that action on the customer’s part is not necessary to derive value from the meters. They help the utility make faster detection and restoration of power outages. PG&E can quickly confirm that a customer has power by pinging the meter. The utility already put that technology to good use during the 2011–2012 winter storm season.