Pennsylvania Utility Rolls Smart Meters to 1.6 Million Customers

PhiladelphiaPhiladelphia-based utility PECO has installed about 700,000 smart meters across its service territory since March 2012 and will complete the deployment of smart meters to all 1.6 million its customers, both residential and commercial, by the end of 2014 – five years ahead of its original schedule.

Pursuant to Pennsylvania state law Act 129, utilities are required to install smart meters for all their customers.

The $660 million PECO smart meter rollout is partially offset by a $200 million stimulus grant. The balance of $460 will be paid by ratepayers, but PECO spokeswoman Cathy Engel Menendez says that expediting the rollout is saving $58 million.

The deregulated energy market in Pennsylvania does not have an opt-out option for customers who don’t want a smart meter. While there have been some protests in other parts of the country from customers claiming smart meters gather too much information and invade privacy, among other complaints, Engel Menendez says PECO hasn’t had a problem with protesting customers.

“PECO is starting this in a much different place, says Engel Menendez. “We currently have automated meter reading. The new system is actually more secure than the current system where there are portions that are shared with telecommunications providers. The new system is a wholly PECO-owned, private encrypted system.”

The utility is installing Landis+Gyr meters for residential customers and Elster meters for commercial ratepayers. PECO had installed some Sensus meters, which made local headlines when some of them caught fire, reports Renew Grid. Although Sensus says its meters were not the cause of any fires, the utility replaced all its Sensus meters with Landis+Gyr units.

As part of its stimulus grant, PECO made a commitment to use a diverse population of smart meters.

What are some of the benefits of the new meters?  “They will provide us more information so that we can restore services faster,” says Engel Menendez. “The new technology also provides more information to customers about how they use energy, and it complements some energy efficiency programs.”

The mandatory smart meters could also provide additional data for property owners that use other energy monitoring tools.

Rhys A.’s Flickr Photostream

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