Oncor Electric Delivery says new tests on the so-called “smart” digital power meters show they are reliable.
“So far, we haven’t been able to find any meters that are measuring inaccurately,” said Oncor spokesman Chris Schein.
Oncor tests found two of 24 meters with variations of no more than two killowatt hours over a one-week period.
“That is a very tiny difference, and that two-kilowatt-an-hour difference probably amounts to a total of 20 cents. And that’s only occurred in two cases out of 24,” Schein said.
Oncor recruited homeowners for the tests after a barrage of complaints over high power bills this winter.
Many customers say they believe the meters are to blame for the spikes in their electric expense.
Meredyth Petree saw her bill rise from about $70 in December to more than $500 in January, and she said many of her Dallas Oak Cliff neighbors reported similar increases.
“It’s very unanimous," she said. "Most people have said ‘I’ve got the same problem. I’m not getting any results. I’m not getting any answers.’ We’re all in the same boat."
The Texas Public Utility Commission granted Oncor a monthly customer fee of $2.21 for the next 11 years to pay for the meters. The company will replace about 3 million of them by 2012.
Oncor argues the digital meters will provide customers with real-time information that allows them to save money on power bills in the future. The utility said such real-time usage information might have helped customers reduce their power consumption in this winter season's cold weather, but the information is not available to customers yet.
Oncor insists most power bill spikes are because of the weather, not the meters.
“It was cold, and it was extended,” Schein said.
He said meter complaints increased from around 400 this time last year to about 4,000 this year, but that about three-quarters of those came from customers that still have the old analog meters.
“These high bills are affecting everyone, whether you’ve got an old electro-mechanical meter or a new smart meter," Schein said.
But Oncor has also discovered recordkeeping errors on reading about 1 percent of the old electro-magnetic analog meters as they were removed.
“And so we’re now going through all 760,000 to find all of them and get them all corrected,” Schein said.
The analog meters used in the side-by-side tests are not the actual meters that had been used by that customer in the past.
Oncor said it will also conduct some additional comparison tests that way, too. And the PUC is also planning independent tests.
Petree said customers deserve all of those reassurances because they are already paying for the new meters but are not getting any of the benefits.
“It’s annoying that you’re hitting people in a pocket that’s practically empty to begin with,” she said. “It’s very frustrating to your consumers, and we don’t have a choice.”
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