Smart Meters Catch Fire, Halting Installations

by | Aug 30, 2012

Smart meter installations are being put on hold in Pennsylvania after several devices overheated and caught on fire, which has prompted regulators in Pennsylvania and Maryland to investigate the devices’ safety, according to news reports.

Meanwhile, in California, several cities have filed petitions to allow customers to opt out of the wireless devices.

Utility company Peco Energy, a divison of Exelon that serves the greater Philadelphia region, suspended its smart meter installation after 15 of the 186,000 it had installed since March overheated, and some burst into flames. The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission staff has asked Peco for results of its investigation into the smart meter fires, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

The meter maker, Sensus, said “no evidence points to a Sensus meter as being the cause of any of these few overheating incidents,” writes GreenTech Media. The company says it will continue working with Peco to identify the cause, which it says appears to be “existing issues with customer equipment.”

And according to the Baltimore Sun, the Maryland Public Service Commission held a public hearing this week to discuss the safety of smart meters, which are being installed throughout Maryland.

Pennsylvania law requires large utility companies to install smart meters; however, in Maryland, consumers can opt out.

Although regulators have said smart meters are safe, the latest incidents add fuel to the fire over concern about the digital devices. Some users say radio waves emitted by smart meters have made them sick, and others raise privacy concerns about customer consumption data collected by the smart meters.

In California, Santa Cruz County, Marin County and the cities of Capitola, Santa Cruz, Seaside, Marina, Ross and Fairfax have filed petitions with the state Public Utilities Commission against Pacific Gas & Electric’s smart meters, CBS News reports. The cities and counties want the state to allow individuals and entire communities the right to opt out.

Similar petitions have been filed against San Diego Gas and Electric and Southern California Edison. The Public Utilities Commission will hold a Sept. 14 meeting to discuss the protests.

A project manager at BC Hydro told The Vancouver Sun that concerned customers can call the utility company, which will inspect any smart meter in question at no charge. Two house fires started in the province at homes fitted with smart meters, after the British Columbia utility had installed about a million of the devices.

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