PG&E lawsuit spreads down Smart Grid supply chain

Last week, we reported on the lawsuit being filed against Pacific Gas & Electric for price hikes seemingly caused by installation of smart meters in the Bakersfield area of California. Now the plaintiff’s attorneys say that PG&E’s suppliers should also be sued — a who’s who of Smart Grid companies including General Electric, meter maker Landis+Gyr and communications provider Silver Spring Networks.

The original plaintiff, Bakersfield resident Pete Flores, filed the suit after his electric bill tripled fro $200 to $600 a month — right after having a new smart meter installed in his home. Objecting that PG&E described the meter as a money-saving device, he decided to sue for fraudulent advertising, negligence and unjust enrichment.

Wrapping up Landis+Gyr in a lawsuit — considering it’s one of the biggest and most respected meter makers in the country, up there with Itron, and Silver Spring Networks, tapped as the most likely IPO in the Smart Grid space — is a pretty big deal. Silver Spring has raised upwards of $167 million from the likes of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers and Foundation Capital — it’s even advised by Al Gore. Landis+Gyr has brought in more than $100 million in capital and is growing globally.

While PG&E has been adamant that the smart meters, capable of beaming data wirelessly back to the utility, are not the cause of Flores’ increased electrical bills, it has yet to produce a practical reason for the problem. The utility has invited a third-party representative from the California Public Utilities Commission to ensure the accuracy of its metering technology, but this has yet to take place.

Silver Spring has remained silent on the suit so far, while Landis+Gyr has simply refuted that there is anything wrong with the meters it has delivered to PG&E.

If Flores and his attorneys successfully sue the entire Smart Grid supply chain in this situation, it could be bad news for similar metering initiatives elsewhere. The Department of Energy just doled out $3.4 billion to utilities looking to smarten up their equipment, but this money could stall, and customers could push back if Flores wins his case or if word of inaccurate or price-boosting meters gets out.

Here’s a copy of Flores’ original complaint:

Klein’s Complaint

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