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Smart meters get a high grade from survey

Sep 28, 2010 - Purva Patel - Houston Chronicle

The vast majority of smart meters installed in Texas are measuring and recording electric usage accurately, according to a state-ordered study.

Navigant Consulting, chosen in March to conduct the study for state regulators in response to complaints about the accuracy of the meters, tested 5,627 meters in use by CenterPoint Energy, Oncor and AEP Texas.

The company found that 99.96 percent of the smart meters tested were accurate.

"A success rate of 99.96 of advanced meters is much better than that of traditional meters," said Terry Hadley, a spokesman for the Public Utility Commission.

The commission announced at a meeting last week that Oncor, CenterPoint Energy and AEP will not pass the cost of the study on to consumers, and indicated that the meter manufacturers will cover some or all of the cost, Hadley said.

Smart meters contain technology that provides real-time power-use information to electricity distributors and customers. Industry and government officials say the information allows customers to monitor their electric use more effectively, distribution companies to spot outages more precisely and electric retail providers to tailor rate plans to customers' usage habits.

Despite the purported benefits, some lawmakers had raised concerns about the accuracy of the new meters as consumers complained of higher bills following installation of the new meters.

Houston-based CenterPoint, which distributes electricity to 2 million Houston-area customers regardless of which retailer sells them their electricity, praised the study.

"CenterPoint Energy takes the accuracy of all our meters seriously," Kenny Mercado, senior vice president of the company's smart grid deployment, said in a written statement. "So we are extremely pleased with these results. Consumers in Houston can rest assured that their electric consumption is being accurately measured and transmitted to retail electric providers."

As of June 30, CenterPoint had installed 500,000 meters. It plans to install them for all 2 million area customers by mid-2012.

During a validation process in February, CenterPoint found that about 3,500 meters had overstated actual usage due to a software glitch. The errors increased customer bills about $7.

CenterPoint has replaced the meters and is testing a new operating system that would prevent the problem from recurring, according to the report.

The report affirms the results of another study conducted by Reliant Energy, said Pat Hammond, a spokeswoman for the Houston-based electric retailer.

Its study found that complaints of higher bills were linked to increased usage during colder weather, Hammond said, noting that an electric heater uses five times as much electricity in one hour as it takes to operate air conditioning for an hour in the summer.


Updated: 2016/06/30

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