Friday, May 7, 2010

Post # 15 - Smart Meter PUC Updates and Consumer Hearts and Minds

In the continuing saga of the troubled roll-out of Pacific Gas & Electric's smart meter program (see Post Nos. 6, 8, and 13) , the California Public Utilities Commission this week ordered the company to make public PG&E's own confidential reports on the status of its smart meters. At the same time, communities in Northern California next on PG&E's smart meter schedule are asking the CPUC to order a moratorium on further installation to allow further review of issues such as accuracy, security, privacy, and environmental effects.

Meanwhile, the Public Utility Commission of Texas, in response to concerns about smart meter roll outs in that state (see Post No. 6), has just announced that testing of smart meter accuracy -- promised earlier this year -- has begun. This independent testing will focus on digital electric meters being installed by Oncor and Centerpoint Energy. These tests will focus not simply on the accuracy of the meters themselves, but also on the accuracy of information transmitted from a smart meter back through the advanced metering infrastructure that gathers and organizes information to prepare a customer’s electric bill.

These California and Texas actions occur against the continuing backdrop of consumer concerns and confusion about smart metering -- coupled with basic consumer lack of understanding and buy-in to the whole issue of the Smart Grid and smart technologies. In that regard, a study issued this week by international research firm Parks Associates reports that -- even as utilities have deployed 13 million smart meters to U.S. households -- only 11 percent of U.S. consumers are familiar with the term "smart grid". As I've noted before, there exists a real problem of the utilities and their IT vendors getting ahead of utility customers and the public on a whole range of Smart Grid issues.

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