Md. PSC questions utilities about smart meter roll out

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated Pepco serves customers in Virginia.

WASHINGTON – Maryland utility regulators want to hear from local power companies about their plans to install digital meters and whether the devices have caused any fires in the state.

If You Go:

When: 2:00 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 28
Where: 16th Floor Hearing Room, William Donald Schaefer Tower,
6 St. Paul Street, Baltimore

The Maryland Public Service Commission told PEPCO, Baltimore Gas and Electric, Delmarva Power and Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative to attend a hearing in Baltimore on Tuesday.

The commission wants to know what type of smart meters the companies plan to install — or have installed — in their service areas, and whether they know of any reports of electrical overheating or malfunction associated with the new technology.

The PSC is taking the action after media reports of fires related to the smart meters installed by a Pennsylvania electric company, PECO. Because of those reports, the Pennsylvania provider suspended installation of its smart meters.

Smart meters replace the spinning, analog meters that measure the amount of electricity a house or business uses each month. Power companies must send meter readers to check the analog devices regularly, but the new meters send power usage information to the utilities directly.

Pepco, the utility which serves parts of Maryland and D.C., says it is unaware of any fires tied to the installation of a smart meter.

Earlier this year, BGE announced a three-year, $482 million rollout of the new technology. And other local companies are in various stages of approval and installation.

There are reports that overheating digital meters may have caused fires in Florida, Pennsylvania and Texas, adding to concern for groups opposing the change from analog to digital. Members of Maryland Smart Meter Awareness say along with the fire concerns, they worry about everything from interference with household appliances to invasion of privacy.

Utility companies say the new devices will save them money by eliminating the need for meter readers. But the devices will also help the companies detect outages without relying on customers to report an outage.

The new meters are also intended to allow customers to track and control usage, helping them save on their energy bills. But customer savings vary widely from a few dollars a year to several hundred.

An estimated 35 percent of American homes and businesses either use the devices or are in the process of having the technology installed.

WTOP’s Kate Ryan and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)

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