Texas PUC has plan to test smart meters

Michael Giberson

Following up on earlier mention of consumer concerns over the accuracy of smart meters, yesterday the Texas PUC approved a plan for testing smart meters. The Fort Worth Star-Telegram reports:

The Texas Public Utility Commission unveiled a detailed plan Thursday for independent testing of smart meters, the same day Oncor Electric Delivery acknowledged that errors by meter readers produced a substantial number of overbillings.

While contending that new digital meters are accurate and exceptionally cold weather was the overwhelmingly predominant cause for soaring electric bills in recent months, Oncor spokesman Chris Schein said there were “1,827 instances of human error” related to Oncor’s installation of 780,000 smart meters.

In areas where smart meters have been installed, some consumers have blamed them for big jumps in their power bills.

Errors typically occurred when a meter reader misread the number on an old meter or a made an error writing the number, Schein said. As a result of dial systems on the old meters, “almost all” the errors resulted in customers being overbilled rather than underbilled, he said.

The average refund to overbilled customers will be about $127, he said.

I don’t quite get this last explanation, “As a result of dial systems on the old meters, ‘almost all’ the errors resulted in customers being overbilled rather than underbilled.” Why would there be a bias in errors?

With just 1,827 out of 708,000 meter reads in error, we’re talking about a less than 0.2 percent error rate. Not bad for a human-managed reading, recording, and retyping based system.

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