Warning: PG&E on the warpath

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Let me tell you a woeful story

Had a Zinsco panel fail on a 2 story house. We were able to make temporary repairs around the burned busbar, but there were multiple problems and the panel needed to be replaced immediately.

Tuesday evening, pulled the City permit on line and scheduled inspection for Wednesday PM. Filed application with PG&E online for service change, noting it was an emergency. (Storms coming in Thursday)

Wednesday morning, my crew disconnects power and begins removal of the service. 1 hour in, PG&E T-man shows up at job site. Evidently he had no trouble calls, and the smart meter on my job had sent a trouble single so he was dispatched to our job site to investigate.

He came out, in a friendly way reminded my guys that it was a federal offense to remove the meter, took pictures of the vehicles, informed us we were subject to a $600 fine, knocked on the door and told the customer he likely wouldn't be reconnected that day.

We went forward with the service change, got our inspection, sent the meter release to PG&E. THEY WOULD NOT SEND SOMEONE TO RECONNECT. I spent hours trying to reach anyone that would listen and DO SOMETHING, but to no avail. Called PG&E this morning, no response.

We all know what the rules are, but we also know that in the real world PG&E can't possibly keep up with all the disconnects /re-connects. I always pull a permit, I always file the application with PG&E, I don't reconnect the service with Blue wire nuts (I use polaris connectors, at $45 per job, that the T-man promptly throws away), I always call PG&E and let them know the service is ready for permanent connection.

This is what I get for trying to take good care of my customers. I feel the customer is suffering because PG&E decided to make an example of me.

Be warned California contractors. This could happen to you.
 

curt swartz

Electrical Contractor - San Jose, CA
Location
San Jose, CA
Occupation
Electrical Contractor
I stopped doing disconnects/reconnects several years ago because of this. Both PG&E and CPA have gotten very aggressive toward non utility employees touching the meters or any wiring on the line side of the meter.

We do very little service work now so its normally not a big problem for us. Most of our residential work is major remodels to unoccupied homes so a little down time is not a problem. Since most project are rewires we try to locate the new service adjacent to the old service so the old service can stay energized until the utility connects the new service.

At lease CPA will respond the same day the inspector signs off the service. PG&E is telling all of my GC's to allow 2 weeks after the inspection for the reconnect to happen if the home is occupied. If the home is not occupied more time should be allowed.

I understand why they don't want people touching their equipment but they need to realize that leaving a homeowner without power for several days or weeks is not acceptable.
 
I stopped doing disconnects/reconnects several years ago because of this. Both PG&E and CPA have gotten very aggressive toward non utility employees touching the meters or any wiring on the line side of the meter.

We do very little service work now so its normally not a big problem for us. Most of our residential work is major remodels to unoccupied homes so a little down time is not a problem. Since most project are rewires we try to locate the new service adjacent to the old service so the old service can stay energized until the utility connects the new service.

At lease CPA will respond the same day the inspector signs off the service. PG&E is telling all of my GC's to allow 2 weeks after the inspection for the reconnect to happen if the home is occupied. If the home is not occupied more time should be allowed.

I understand why they don't want people touching their equipment but they need to realize that leaving a homeowner without power for several days or weeks is not acceptable.

We also do mainly large remodels on the peninsula, but we also do 2-3 service changes a month. Got some grief from PG&E in 1990's on a job in the Santa Cruz mountains. Same scenario, tree pulls the service off the wall, pull permit, call PG&E, start the work. Got that one settled. No problems in the last 20+ years.

Palo Alto responds promptly (I'm guessing that is "CPA" you mention), so they're not an issue. Same thing with Silicon Valley Power (Santa Clara), very responsive. But PG&E is so under manned that they may or may not disconnect on the scheduled day, let alone at 8am when you need to start to complete the service,get an inspection and reconnect the same day.
 

MNSparky

Senior Member
Location
Minneapolis, MN
Occupation
Electrical Contractor - 2020 NEC
Via the application the day before.

So, how is it supposed to work?

You call them, they take their sweet time to come out to disconnect the overhead and pull the meter, you do the work and have the inspector call it in to them for reconnect, and they take up to two weeks to come back out to reconnect a occupied home?

For real?
 

curt swartz

Electrical Contractor - San Jose, CA
Location
San Jose, CA
Occupation
Electrical Contractor
So, how is it supposed to work?

You call them, they take their sweet time to come out to disconnect the overhead and pull the meter, you do the work and have the inspector call it in to them for reconnect, and they take up to two weeks to come back out to reconnect a occupied home?

For real?

According the them.....YES!
 

peter d

Senior Member
Location
New England
I feel so spoiled, we cut and reconnect, cut seals and pull meters, and pretty much do what we want and the poco never hassles us. In fact, they're quite happy when we do their job for them.
 

MNSparky

Senior Member
Location
Minneapolis, MN
Occupation
Electrical Contractor - 2020 NEC
I feel so spoiled, we cut and reconnect, cut seals and pull meters, and pretty much do what we want and the poco never hassles us. In fact, they're quite happy when we do their job for them.

Yup, same here. I've even been known to relocate service drops on occasion.:roll:
 

infinity

Moderator
Staff member
Location
New Jersey
Occupation
Journeyman Electrician
I feel so spoiled, we cut and reconnect, cut seals and pull meters, and pretty much do what we want and the poco never hassles us. In fact, they're quite happy when we do their job for them.

Haven't done one in a while but it has always be like that here too.
 

MNSparky

Senior Member
Location
Minneapolis, MN
Occupation
Electrical Contractor - 2020 NEC
Is that standard protocol in an emergency situation such as what you described?

Good question. I got an emergency call to repair a service that a drunk ran into after leaving the road. It was in the middle of the night, really cold and the house was without heat due to the accident. I needed to replace the meter base and most of the pipe/wire outside that night. The poco was there within a couple hours with a new meter. How would it work there?
 

K8MHZ

Senior Member
Location
Michigan. It's a beautiful peninsula, I've looked
Occupation
Electrician
In the time I have been an electrician, I have seen our POCO go through the following phases:

1) Do your own disconnects and meter pulls, and even connect a 'cheater outlet' from the triplex to a receptacle to have power for tools when the drop was cut. POCO would reconnect the same day.

2) POCO got scammed out of a bunch of money by a GC and a couple EC's that were tampering with meters and bypassing them altogether. After that, we couldn't touch 'their stuff' at all, for any reason. They did all the cuts and reconnects, even in emergencies, but were very good about being prompt.

3) POCO relaxed the rules, and would allow EC's to disconnect in emergencies.

4) POCO relaxed the rules a bit more, and would allow EC's to disconnect if they called and got permission first.

5) Now EC's can just cut the drop if a linesman hasn't already done so. We still aren't supposed to scab an outlet to work from, though.

Our POCO, Consumers Energy, is GREAT. On the rare occasion we have to wait for them, it's for a very good reason. Typically, a service upgrade goes like this:

EC gets permit and sets up date with POCO. POCO usually has drop cut by 8 am, or the EC just does it. Inspection scheduled for 3 pm or so. Inspector shows up on time, slaps the green on the can and calls the POCO. POCO usually there by 5.

After reading about other POCOs, I am very thankful to have Consumers and their inexpensive and good service. The linesmen are all great, too. Never had an issue with any of them.

We got new smart meters a couple years ago. One day last year I noticed my old, nasty SE cable was about to short out. It was Sunday. It was bad, it should have been fixed months before. It couldn't wait. I cut the drop, pulled the meter and replaced the SE cable with pipe and wire, reconnected and put the meter back in. I put the old, nasty SE cable in my garage so when the linesman showed up, I could show it to him. My smart meter was on the ground for about an hour so I figured I would see someone first thing Monday.

I never got a visit from the POCO, and never got any questions about why my meter was disconnected for over an hour.
 
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Fulthrotl

~Autocorrect is My Worst Enema.~
He came out, in a friendly way reminded my guys that it was a federal offense to remove the meter, took pictures of the vehicles, informed us we were subject to a $600 fine, knocked on the door and told the customer he likely wouldn't be reconnected that day.This is what I get for trying to take good care of my customers. I feel the customer is suffering because PG&E decided to make an example of me.Be warned California contractors. This could happen to you.
hm. that was the friendly way?i guess the unfriendly was is he just sets your truck on fire and leaves?my experience with having to interrupt power to a residential panel iswith LADWP, and mostly SCE. here is what i've done:get a copy of the utility bill. write down the meter number.call customer service, and explain that i have to do a safety inspectionthat will require me pulling the meter, and can they please come out andremove the lock ring?they say, ok, and a line patrolman shows up the next day and pulls the ring off,or sometimes that day.the day i'm gonna unplug from the mother ship, i call up customer support, andgive them the billing address, the account number, and offer my state contractorslicense number, and explain i'm going to do a safety inspection, which requires ipull the meter from the socket. they have never required my state contractors number.they say OK, the account has been noted.i do whatever i need to do, and put it back togeather.i call the utility, and say that my work is done, the meter is reseated, and the lockring needs to be resealed, if they wish to.they say thank you, and that is that.i've never had anything like what you describe happen. once, i was there whenthe line patrolman showed up to pull the ring, and afterwards, he gave me threeseals, and told me to reseal it myself. he said they don't use lock rings any more,since rolling out the smart meters.sorry to hear about your misfortune.
 

Electric-Light

Senior Member
Remember that PG&E has one of the highest residential electricity rate in the nation and they have several levels of kWh quota that raises the price with each step. California has significant number of illegal cultivation incidents that they sort of have to have a very strict policy to protect their business from organized crime.

As theft goes up and real crooks improvise to avoid detection, everyone gets scrutinized and treated like a criminal.

he said they don't use lock rings any more,since rolling out the smart meters.sorry to hear about your misfortune.

That sort of make sense. Capabilities and actually used features are significantly different for each utility but meters that allow on-demand kW load polling is getting more common.
Adding up all the customer meters and street lights should theoretically equal the kWh at substation but technical losses allows pilfered energy to get lost when you can only compare monthly kWh usage.

Smart meters absolutely make it easier to narrow down where theft is happening. When instantaneous primary reading is taken during a time that has the lowest instantaneous kW sum of served accounts and there's a point when the primary kW is high enough to rule out any error and from there, they start chasing down stream to find the leak.
 
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Fulthrotl

~Autocorrect is My Worst Enema.~
hm. that was the friendly way?i guess the unfriendly was is he just sets your truck on fire and leaves?my experience with having to interrupt power to a residential panel iswith LADWP, and mostly SCE. here is what i've done:get a copy of the utility bill. write down the meter number.call customer service, and explain that i have to do a safety inspectionthat will require me pulling the meter, and can they please come out andremove the lock ring?they say, ok, and a line patrolman shows up the next day and pulls the ring off,or sometimes that day.the day i'm gonna unplug from the mother ship, i call up customer support, andgive them the billing address, the account number, and offer my state contractorslicense number, and explain i'm going to do a safety inspection, which requires ipull the meter from the socket. they have never required my state contractors number.they say OK, the account has been noted.i do whatever i need to do, and put it back togeather.i call the utility, and say that my work is done, the meter is reseated, and the lockring needs to be resealed, if they wish to.they say thank you, and that is that.i've never had anything like what you describe happen. once, i was there whenthe line patrolman showed up to pull the ring, and afterwards, he gave me threeseals, and told me to reseal it myself. he said they don't use lock rings any more,since rolling out the smart meters.sorry to hear about your misfortune.
ok, i'm not getting this.is anyone else having all the formatting stripped out of their posts?
 

GoldDigger

Moderator
Staff member
Location
Placerville, CA, USA
Occupation
Retired PV System Designer
ok, i'm not getting this.is anyone else having all the formatting stripped out of their posts?

Yes, from time to time.
There are a couple to threads about this. But no determination of what the problem is.
Both spaces and carriage returns seem to be ignored while you are entering your response.
If it looks good till you hit the Submit button, it may be a different problem.
 
I feel so spoiled, we cut and reconnect, cut seals and pull meters, and pretty much do what we want and the poco never hassles us. In fact, they're quite happy when we do their job for them.

Here in central NY state/upstate same thing. Mostly no permits here. I do a service upgrade, then call national grid, "hey I need a work request number for a service I just upgraded so my inspector can call it in.......no its all done and reconnected, dont need anything other than the work request......yep, thanks. You will hear from the inspector in a few days then just reseal it at your convenience. Have a good day."

I work in Seattle too. City light is pretty chill with cutting seals, discos and recos. Permits there of course, so a few more steps, plus SCL likes to approve meter locations on upgrades and they come right out to look so I give them a heads up.
 
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