Smart meter showdowns: PUCs step it up on fire safety, health effects

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By Liz Enbysk

SGN Managing Editor

 

Smart meters are taking more heat, and fires are just part of it. But let's start there, because we'll be hearing more about it later this week when the Pennsylvania PUC holds a briefing on Peco's overheating meters. (If after reading this you want a shot of good news about smart meters, we found some. Click to page 2.)

In August, you may recall, Peco  temporarily suspended its smart meter installations after fire marshals in Bucks County, PA raised concerns about newly installed digital meters overheating and causing fires. The utility has now confirmed that 26 smart meters (out of some 200,000+ installed) have overheated since March, although not all resulted in fires and only three in property damage beyond the meter area, according to a report in the Courier Times.

No surprise that coverage of the fires got the attention of the Pennsylvania PUC, which on Thursday will hold a public briefing with Peco and its smart meter vendors to hear what they're doing about the fire safety issues. And if you read the news account, Peco's response has been considerable, from replacing meters that failed to install wireless safety upgrades to swapping out meter models and retaining independent experts for forensic analysis and testing.

 

Last week we wrote about smart meters being pushed as a human rights issue in Canada by a group called Citizens for Safe Technology whose members contend BC Hydro discriminates against people with certain medical conditions and disabilities by refusing to accommodate their request for wired meters instead of wireless smart meters.

 

Now that issue has been raised yet again in the District of Columbia, where the D.C. Public Service Commission said last week it will investigate the health effects from the smart meters Pepco has already installed for most of its 255,000+ residential and commercial customers. A story in the Washington Business Journal suggests the decision to take up the health issue and feasibility of an opt-out is a reversal from an earlier finding that there was no compelling evidence that smart meters pose a health threat.

 

In the face of those developments, these perspectives may be of interest:

·         From Quebec electro-experts, the perfect antidote for smart-meter electro-phobia

·         Smart meters are about as dangerous as …

And as for whether these smart meter showdowns mean slowdowns, a few recent headlines indicate a positive trending:

·         IDC Energy Insights: Smart meter shipments will surpass 130 million units by 2016; emerging markets cited as growth catalyst

·         Global smart grid activity heating up

·         Forecast has munis leading the next smart grid investment round

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