Share This Page

Duquesne Light to begin installing 'smart' electric meters

| Thursday, Jan. 9, 2014, 5:00 p.m.

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission gave final approval on Thursday to Duquesne Light Co.'s plan to replace old analog meters with ones designed to help customers and utilities better track energy use.

Critics think the so-called “smart meters” will invade their privacy, drive up energy bills and present safety risks, such as radiation emissions and potential fire hazards. Some meters caught fire after they were installed for Philadelphia's PECO, but the utility is no longer using the manufacturer of those devices.

“We see it as a tool to help consumers reduce their energy usage and increase efficiency in their homes and businesses,” said PUC spokeswoman Jennifer Kocher.

The smart meters will collect and share data on at least an hourly basis. Duquesne Light spokesman Joey Vallarian said that will allow customers to track usage and costs online in almost real-time. The meters also could help shorten some outages, as the company will be able to better pinpoint where they occur.

The meters will enable Duquesne Light to charge different rates based on the time of day. Running a washing machine or dishwasher will cost more during hours of peak energy usage.

“It's like they're telling you when you can use your electricity,” said Lisa Verlato Nancollas, 49, of Lewistown in central Pennsylvania, who started a website and online petition to oppose the 2008 state law that required Pennsylvania's seven largest electrical utilities to switch to smart meters.

Nancollas thinks customers should be able to “opt out” of getting a smart meter, something not allowed now.

Pennsylvania's Acting Consumer Advocate Tanya J. McCloskey said workers would have to go out to read those customers' meters, likely resulting in an added “opt out” fee.

Duquesne Light becomes the third utility to receive the final go-ahead, following PECO and PPL in eastern and central Pennsylvania.

Vallarian said the company plans to install its first 5,000 meters this year and replace meters for all 585,000 of its customers in Allegheny and Beaver counties by 2020. He did not say when or where the work will start.

Tom Fontaine is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7847 or tfontaine@tribweb.com.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.