Saturday, November 8, 2014

When Smart Meters Fail

The concept of a “smart” or adaptive electric grid is still years away, but already there are problems. The first tentative step toward a smart grid is the installation of smart electric meters, and there are growing pains even at this stage. Dozens of smart meters have caught fire or exploded, causing concern about the potential for building fires. I have heard reports of this problem in Hawaii and California, and of incidents near here in Philadelphia, but the defective smart meters have become the greatest obstacle in Saskatchewan. There, there have been nine reported “smart meter failures” among only 105,000 installed in a pilot program, a failure rate so astonishingly high that the province has ordered all of the smart meters removed. Here is the report of the latest meter fire from CBC News:

The design problems with smart meters will be fixed soon enough, but the extent of problems shows that even these initial, rudimentary steps can’t be taken for granted. We have to get the first pieces working before we can go on to the next step after that.