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The Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission (PUC) has summoned Philadelphia-based utility PECO and two of its meter vendors to attend a meeting on Sept. 13 to address recent overheating issues with smart meter installations that occurred in Bucks County.

Jennifer Kocher, press secretary with the PUC, says the commission called the meeting to determine how PECO and its two residential smart meter vendors - Landis+Gyr and Sensus - plan to proceed with PECO's smart grid program, which the utility suspended last month after 15 smart meters overheated and two affected units were tied to fires.

In the time since PECO suspended its program, 11 more meters overheated, and one of those incidents led to another fire, utility spokesperson Cathy Engel Menendez tells Renew Grid. The latest fire happened last Thursday in Bensalem.

So far, PECO has installed 155,000 Sensus and 46,000 Landis+Gyr smart meters. All 26 affected units, however, were Sensus meters. At press time, Landis+Gyr did not respond to attempts for an interview. Sensus has offered only a prepared statement, released last month.

PECO has now completed investigations of 14 of the 26 overheating incidents. Engel Menendez says seven of the incidents were caused either by installation issues or by water intrusions around the meters during harsh rains; the other seven involved “pre-existing conditions with customer equipment,” such as old or faulty wiring.

To address the overheating issues, PECO has been working with Sensus on enhancements to the vendor’s equipment. First, PECO finished implementing an upgrade at the end of August that automatically shuts down a meter when a problem occurs. Second, the utility has been working since Sept. 6 to install an early-alarm system that would warn the utility about issues. That enhancement is expected to be finished Wednesday.

In addition, PECO is working to replace some Sensus smart meters with Landis+Gyr devices to study differences between the two technologies.

Nonetheless, the Pennsylvania PUC’s Kocher says the commission wants to know what steps the utility is taking to mitigate future problems and to educate and reassure customers who already have smart meters installed on their homes.

Engel Menendez claims PECO is ready. “The purpose of this meeting is to share information and continue to make sure the PUC has all the information it needs,” she says.

As for the smart grid pilot, the future remains uncertain. “When and how we move forward will be determined based on what we experience with the wireless enhancements, as well as the investigations under way,” Engel Menendez explains.


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