Sunday, August 8, 2010

Post # 34 - Smart Meters Pass a Test in Texas

As of July 1 of this year, the Texas Public Utility Commission says that 1,574,774 smart meters have been installed in Texas. When the rollout is complete, approximately 6.5 million customers will be upgraded from mechanical meters to smart meters with a digital display.

However, as with PG&E’s smart meter rollout in California, Oncor’s and Centerpoint’s Texas rollouts triggered consumer complaints about meter accuracy and alleged overpricing, (see Post #6). Oncor has said that the expensive bills many customers complained of were due to a record cold winter. However, in response to hundreds of complaints, the Texas PUC last spring mandated that Oncor and Centerpoint fund independent smart meter testing (see Post #15).

The results are now in, and they support Oncor’s and Centerpoint’s claims that the meters were operating accurately. The report, prepared by Navigant Consulting under the direction of the PUC, revealed a smart meter accuracy rate of 99.96 percent. Only two were found to measure electric usage inaccurately of the 5,627 that were tested. This compares favorably with the 96 percent accuracy of older mechanical meters. Upon reviewing these results, Texas PUC Chairman Barry Smitherman said that the "extraordinary and comprehensive study clearly shows the superiority of smart meters compared to traditional, electromechanical meters." For more on the results, see here and here. To read the full Navigant report, click here and then click on document no. 38053.

This certainly doesn’t answer other questions that smart meter critics have been raising, such as the role of dynamic pricing (see Post ## 11, 26), overall costs (see Post ## 25, 28, 29 and 33) or whether smart meters represent the best means of promoting efficient energy usage (see Post # 27).

Nevertheless, the Navigant study clearly is a boost for supporters of smart metering as an advanced technology. On that level, at least, the Navigant study is evidence of smart metering's superiority to traditional mechanical meters.

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