Smart meter update: Peco extends freeze, Michigan orders opt-outs

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Here are updates on smart meter stories we've been telling you about.

 

Peco and PUC talk smart meter fires

In the wake of numerous incidents of smart meters overheating that in several cases resulted in fires, Peco representatives told the Pennsylvania PUC late last week that its suspension of smart meter deployments would likely extend into October while the utility investigates the cause. Peco and its smart meter manufacturers believe the fires most likely came from external problems in what the meters were connected to rather than the devices themselves.

 

According to a report in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Peco's senior VP of operations Mike Innocenzo told the commission Peco would pay for any damage associated with its smart meter installations. The utility has said fire caused serious damage in two of the affected homes. Peco is in the midst of a $650 million smart meter program with installations in 201,642 homes to date.

 

The Inquirer report indicated the commissioners had "mostly polite" questions for Peco and the smart meter manufacturers who attended the information-gathering session and said the commission chairman praised Peco for being "extremely proactive" in working with them.

A data privacy protection nightmare?

Speaking of data collection, privacy and cybersecurity, a new report from GlobalData -- Cyber Security in Smart Grid – Market Size, Key Issues, Regulations and Outlook to 2020-- states that "while governments worldwide prepare to spend billions on securing smart grid infrastructure from external threats, large portions of the global community are fighting the potential harvest and dissemination of personal information by utility companies and other organizations."

 

It goes on to suggest that privacy worries occur when data collected from smart meters, smart appliances and other smart grid technologies is used to analyze "the personal habits, lifestyle and behavior of consumers, beyond providing them with efficient electricity services."

 

The report points to Canada's forward-thinking "Privacy by Design" initiative that has led Canadian utilities to bake security features into their smart grid systems – and suggests that in the U.S. a lack of clarity about the ownership and responsibility over energy consumption data is raising concerns.

 

We’ve posted a number of pieces on privacy issues in recent months, from  Smart grid consumer privacy: A little myth, a little method by Patty Durand of the Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative to one by Sunil Soares of IBM suggesting PUCs will become increasingly assertive about protecting consumers' privacy rights in the context of Big Data and suggesting four best practices.

 

Are we getting any closer to solving problems cited in the GlobalData report? Use the Talk Back comment form to tell us what you think.