In the wake of numerous customer complaints about digital power meters, Oncor Electric Delivery is trying to prove the new meters are accurate.
Customers across North and Central Texas are blaming the smart meters for their shockingly high power bills. The Texas Public Utility Commission last week ordered independent test of the meters.
Oncor has also launched its own tests in hopes of demonstrating the accuracy of the meters.
Homeowner Mark Crosslin volunteered to put dual meters on his home to see whether an old analog meter and the new digital meters would both register the same kilowatt usage.
He said he is suspicious of the reliability of the digital meter that was installed at his home 10 days into the billing cycle in December.
“And as soon as the new meter was put in, we saw an increase in kilowatt usage per day without any lifestyle changes,” Crosslin said. “We didn’t have Christmas lights, we weren’t cooking more with our electric oven. Our electric usage really should have had no changes.”
Oncor is sponsoring the test at his house. But the company has said that in nearly every case, higher bills were the result of more electricity used during the recent cold spells.
“That seems to be the common denominator,” said Jim Greer, of Oncor. “If somebody does have question about their bill and their usage, we’re standing ready to sit down with that customer, one-on-one, try to understand what’s going on in their home.”
“People have been telling me that their bills are doubling and tripling,” he said. “They’re really concerned about the accuracy.”
Anchia helped persuade the Public Utility Commission to conduct independent reliability tests of its own on the new meters.
“We did have the coldest winter in 25 years, but we’ve also found that there have been a number of misreadings -- manual misreadings, human error -- on these bills," he said.
Anchia said he has been told that Oncor workers incorrectly recorded the usage figures on about 7,000 old analog meters as they were removed for replacement.
“When you have 7,000 manual errors, human errors, it sounds like processes need to be changed internally,” Anchia said. “That may be the reason for some of these high bills. It may not be the reason for all of them. And that’s why we want to make sure that we’re getting to the bottom of this.”
Crosslin said he is wondering if his old analog meter may have been defective and underreported his electric usage. He will never know, because a different analog meter is being used in the side-by-side test at his house.
The company said Crosslin’s old analog meter was destroyed after it was removed, as is done with many old analog meters.
“It will not resolve the issue of why mine read different from this new meter, which is really the study I would like to see,” Crosslin said. “But this is still a good, very good step.”
Oncor said it welcomes the opportunity to prove that the new meters are reliable.
Greer said constant monitoring of electric usage will soon be available with the smart meters. The flow of information will allow customers to adjust their behavior and reduce consumption immediately instead of waiting until the bill arrives to see how much they have used.
Complaints about meters or power bills can be filed with the Texas Public Utility Commission, with Oncor and with the customer's retail electric company.
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