CPUC Meter Safety Testing Confirmation Needed.
(c) Copyright 2011 Lance Houston
There are numerous safety concerns with the new smart meters being installed by PG&E throughout parts of California. The new meters are novel in many ways compared to the old style analog meters that have safely and reliably metered electrical consumption for decades.
One of the novel features in the new meters is the incorporation of an internal disconnect switch that the power company purports safely disconnects/reconnects power to the dwelling it supplies by remote control. This disconnect feature is a new and significant change to the old style analog meters. The safety of the new disconnect feature is in question.
As a California Electrical Contractor, I estimate that a 200 amp disconnect enclosure would be sized roughly 20″x 20″x 6″, several times larger than a smart meter. Concerned about this, I asked other electrical contractors’ opinions about the remote disconnect switch. Like myself, they found it hard to believe a 100, 200, or 400 amp disconnect switch can be crammed into a tiny meter enclosure.
Smart meters are Novel Electrical Devices
The smart meters incorporate multiple new features into a single unit :
1) electronics for actual metering of power consumption,
2) radio frequency transmitter(s) for sending data,
3) radio frequency receiver(s) for receiving data, and
4) an electromagnetic switch for connecting/disconnecting electrical service.
Under Federal Regulations testing and safety approval is required for certain products. (Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) rule 29 CFR 1910). Under this rule, Electrical conductors or equipment are required to be tested and or approved for safety. It does not appear the smart meters have been tested under this federal safety regulation. Smart meters have not been tested and approved under OSHA regulations.
Under California Regulations testing and safety certification is required for meters and meter data. (California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) D.98-12-080; Permanent Standards For Metering And Meter Data). Under this rule, that was created in part by PG&E, self-certification is done by the meter manufacturer.
The CPUC allows the maker of the meters to do their own testing for safety. Amazingly, “not all components of a meter product are required to be included in the meter product during certification testing.”
Independent third-party testing and review of the end use product is not required. “Trust us the meters are safe.”
Reports of Smart meter Fires
Electrical fires where smart meters have been installed are reported in several California counties, in Alabama, and in countries like New Zealand. Reports detail that the meters themselves can smoke, smolder and catch fire, they can explode, or they can simply create over-current conditions on the electrical circuits. The potential for arcing in the new disconnect feature should be carefully scrutinized. Incidents of fire are reason enough to halt installations.
Test Results Must be made Public
PG&E and the CPUC purport the smart meters are being manufactured in accordance with American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standards. To date, no verification has been made available to the public. The CPUC requires a test report and certification by the manufacturer prior to approval of use. However, to date a comprehensive smart meter test report and filed certification application has not been made available to the public. Because of the novelty of the new smart meters, testing should be by independent third party.
Smart meters are novel devices that have not been tested and approved under OSHA. It is unknown if the field ready (end use product) have been tested or certified for safety. Because the smart meters are novel devices and there are confirmed reports of fires, I believe smart meter installations should be halted immediately. Concerned customers should be allowed to have analog meters re-installed. They have a longstanding safety record.
10 Reasonable Questions
1. Have all the testing requirements in CPUC D.98-12-080; Permanent Standards For Metering And Meter Data been completed?
2. Does D.98-12-080 and ANSI include testing for all the features of the smart meters?
3. According CPUC documents “not all components of a meter product are required to be included in the meter product during certification testing.” Have the smart meters (end use product), undergone testing and certification as a complete field ready unit? If not, why not?
4. Is there a full load test for the meter disconnect switch?
5. If a dwelling’s electrical service is rated at 200 amps, the meter has the potential to have a 200 amp load. Are the smart meter disconnects rated for the maximum potential load of the dwelling it serves?
6. Are the smart meter disconnects tested and certified to safely disconnect/reconnect under full load conditions?
7. Sizes (amperage) of electrical service to dwellings vary. How many different size meters are there (100amp, 200amp, 400amp etc.) What are the ratings of the meters being installed?
8. Is there independent third party testing? If not, why not?
9. Is there independent third party review of the test results? If not, why not?
10. How does the public know the smart meters (end use product) are safe, what evidence is there?