Peco to regulators: May we modernize faster please?


Quick Take:  After an ultra-cautious original plan -- and despite problems with meters catching fire -- Peco Energy Co. is asking regulators if it can finish up its smart meter installations five years faster. They decided it didn't make sense to take on the added expense of simultaneously supporting two different systems for all those years. We're now wondering if Consumers Energy and other "go-slow" installations will decide to accelerate as well. - Jesse Berst


The Philadelphia utility originally planned to deploy smart meters through 2019, but recently asked the Pennsylvania PUC to let it spend $282 million to finish the installation for all of its 1.6 million customers by the end of 2014. According to a Philadelphia Inquirer report, the utility says not having to maintain two systems for that extended time period will result in a savings of $58 million.


Peco stalled its smart meter rollout last summer after reports of smart meters overheating and at least one related house fire. A few months later it resumed installations after swapping meter makers. In the aftermath, a number of experts, including those at DNV KEMA, have said fire risks shouldn't be blamed on the meters, but on poor or degraded connections in the meter socket receptacles.


And the Inquirer indicates the smoking meters issue hasn't gone away. It says a Peco spokeswoman acknowledged a fire last month that occurred just hours after the utility installed a new meter. But the spokeswoman indicated the fire originated in the home's meter panel, not the meter itself.


But Pennsylvania's PUC has been supportive of smart meters, or as the Inquirer put it, "the commission's enthusiasm for the devices is undiminished."


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Jesse Berst is the founder and chief analyst of Smart Grid, the industry's oldest and largest smart grid site. A frequent keynoter at industry events in the U.S. and abroad, he also serves on advisory committees for Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and the Institute for Electric Efficiency. He often provides strategic consulting to large corporations and venture-backed startups. He is a member of the advisory boards of GridGlo and Calico Energy Services.