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What Happened in Texas

Evaluating smart meters and public backlash.

Fortnightly Magazine - December 2010

the independent testing of the accuracy of a large sample of smart meters; 2) a review of complaints received by the PUCT from residential customers with smart meters who expressed concerns over increases in their electric bills; 3) an independent evaluation of the smart metering systems of each TDSP, including an evaluation of the transmission of customer electric usage information from smart meters through the advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) to that used for individual customer bills ( i.e., meter-to-bill data flow); 4) a statistical analysis of historical electric usage; and 5) an evaluation of smart meter testing, deployment and provisioning processes and controls in place at each of the TDSPs.

The question of smart meter accuracy was the initial focal point of the independent study in Texas and was thoroughly addressed through a multifaceted approach including meter testing, evaluation of the meters’ communication capability and effectiveness, investigation of observed anomalies across certain smart meter attributes, diagnostics and event codes, and analysis of the historical electric usage recorded before and after smart meter deployment (see Figure 2) .

Over 5,600 smart meters were accuracy tested, including: 2,400 smart meters before installation; 2,700 smart meters after installation (that were removed from service and tested in a laboratory environment); more than 500 smart meters in the field, using portable testing equipment; and side-by-side testing of 75 smart meters and 75 electromechanical meters, subjected to load and temperature conditions representative of those experienced in Texas.

The study also encompassed a review and comparison to the historical accuracy testing results for approximately 1.1 million smart meters deployed in Texas and more than 86,000 electromechanical meters.

The results of the accuracy testing indicated that the smart meters accurately measured and recorded electricity usage. Out of 5,627 meters, all but two (or 99.96 percent) tested were found to be accurate by the American National Standards Institute standards of +/- 2 percent. Side-by-side testing, as well as the review of historical accuracy testing results, indicated that the smart meters being deployed are significantly more accurate on average than the electromechanical meters they’re replacing (see Figure 3).

With the accuracy of the smart meters being established through initial accuracy testing, the focus quickly turned to questions about whether the advanced metering infrastructure in use was accurately and effectively recording, storing and communicating electric usage from the smart meters for use in customer billing. The independent study evaluated smart meter deployment and data management processes and controls, from the meter through the collection, validation and transmission of data for use in customer billing. This included assessing the processes, written procedures and controls developed by each TDSP to facilitate the successful deployment and use of smart meters in their respective service areas. Also it included a meter-to-bill data analysis of over 270,000 daily and monthly register reads (meter to head-end to MDMS to CIS); and on-demand register read verification for over 650 meters.

The evaluation focused on initial testing and acceptance of advanced meters; meter deployment, including physical installation of advanced meters and initial network connectivity; and data management, including collection, storage,