Smart Meters

 

The Office of the People's Counsel ("OPC") welcomes you to its smart grid education web site. OPC is committed to providing residents timely and straightforward information about the changes currently underway regarding how electricity service is provided. Additionally, OPC is charged with educating consumers about emerging issues in the utility industry and how they impact consumers. The smart grid is certainly one of the biggest changes in the District of Columbia's utility landscape as this change in infrastructure touches each and every consumer. This section of our website was created to introduce District of Columbia residents to the smart grid PEPCO is in the early stages of deploying.

OPC realizes the success of the smart grid is directly tied to whether consumers change their consumption behavior. So, this website is a vital tool for both the Office and consumers. The site will answer questions such as what is the smart grid, why do we need it and how will consumers benefit from it. Additionally, the website explains how the smart grid was approved in the District of Columbia and provides a number of private, local and federal contacts with additional information about the smart grid. Last, and perhaps most importantly, the site tells consumers how their voices can be heard by the DC Public Service Commission whose responsibility it is to make important decisions about the smart grid over the next few years.

FAQs

The smart grid is necessary because the country's current electric infrastructure, which fundamentally has not changed since its creation nearly a century ago, is unable to meet a range of challenges, including a dramatic increase in the demand for electricity, the need to reduce carbon emissions caused by the generation of electricity from burning fossil fuels, the need to use clean renewable sources of energy to produce electricity, the need for reliable power to support our growing digital economy, and the need to have our transportation sector operate on electricity rather than foreign oil.

PEPCO's AMI plan is designed to deliver a number of benefits to consumers wanting greater control over their energy usage. 

In the short-term, consumers will benefit from:

  •  Detailed information about energy usage,
  •  Actual meter readings instead of estimated readings, Ability to program your smart thermostat to adjust its usage in response to changes in the price of electricity Ability to know your bill-to- date

In the future, PEPCO is expected to offer:

  • Ability to choose a pricing plan that fits your usage,
  •  Ability to remotely control your heating and air conditioning system
In October 2010, PEPCO began installing a new type of electric meter at the premises of every electric customer in the District. All smart meters and AMI are scheduled to be completed by December 2011. The new meter will continue to bill your energy usage on a monthly basis, and you will not see any change in the format of your monthly bill.  
OPC will provide you more information about the meter when details become available.
PEPCO has applied for and received a federal economic stimulus grant of $44.6 million. This is estimated to be about half the cost of replacing all the meters and building in the special components to operate the network. PEPCO has received permission from the DC Public Service Commission ("Commission") to collect the balance of the costs from ratepayers. The exact amount consumers will pay for PEPCO's AMI will be determined by the Commission.
No. At this time, there is no opt-out provision to Pepco's smart grid program. The legislation that authorized the deployment of smart grid allowed Pepco to install smart meters to all of its customers and did not have a provision for an opt-out.

The Office of the People's Counsel has used all available means to obtain an opt-out for consumers.  In 2012, after receiving complaints from consumers about the safety of smart meters, OPC wrote a letter to Councilmember Yvette Alexander who had oversight of the Office and the PSC requesting she urge the Commission to conduct an independent study to determine the technical and economic feasibility of Pepco providing an opt-out provision and a study to determine the safety of smart meters. On August 9, 2012 Councilmember Alexander wrote a letter to the PSC and urged the Commission to conduct such a study.  The Commission hired West Monroe Partners to conduct the study. 

Also in an effort to prevent Pepco from disconnecting consumers who refused a smart meter installation, OPC on May 16, 2012 filed a Motion with the Commission requesting the PSC prevent Pepco from disconnecting consumers who refused the smart meter installation. On June 21, 2012, the Commission issued Order No. 16841 denying OPC's motion but urged Pepco to use restraint for those consumers who did not want a smart meter installed. (See order attached)  

While the Office was urging the Commission to conduct a study on the feasibility of an opt-out, on May 15, 2013, Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie introduced legislation to give the PSC authority to decide on the issue of opt-out. Unfortunately, the legislation was not voted on and no further action has taken place on this issue at the Council since.

On September 20, 2013 West Monroe Partners filed its report with the Commission. The report found that there was no credible, scientific evidence to show that the level of RF emissions from the Pepco smart meters is a threat to human health.  The report also said that Pepco could provide an opt-out provision but that there were questions that remained to be answered.  On December 13, 2013 the Office of the People's Counsel filed a motion requesting the Commission further examine the findings and recommendations of the West Monroe Report to determine if an opt-out provision is feasible. On February 20, 2014 the Commission issued Order No. 17388 denying OPC's Motion stating "OPC’s motion is premature in light of the fact that the District has not passed a law regarding opt-out in the District of Columbia."  This order was consistent with Commission's Order 16761 in April 2012 in which it denied OPC's request for the PSC to determine whether it was reasonable for Pepco to provide an opt-out because the City Council had not given it authority to act on the issue. As such, the Commission will not action on this issue until the Council gives the PSC authority to act on the issue of opt-out.

Not necessarily. While the smart meter will eventually have the ability to notify PEPCO of outages, it will not make the District's electric distribution system more reliable. The overall reliability of the network depends on PEPCO taking steps to ensure electricity is flowing through the system.
No. Pepco cannot use the smart meters to remotely disconnect service for accounts that are delinquent. The Commission in Order No. 16484 prohibited Pepco from deviating from the Commission's rules governing the termination of utility service which requires personal contact prior to disconnection. Therefore, if an account is delinquent, Pepco must follow the existing rules to terminate service.

Based on OPC's involvement with the PowerCentsDC pilot and research of other smart meter pilot programs, OPC supports the introduction of smart meters and the smart grid to the extent deployment proceeds in a manner that empowers consumers to be able to better control their energy usage; enhances energy efficiency; reduces the District's overall electricity load, thus reducing the cost of energy to all consumers; and does not unduly burden seniors and those on fixed incomes.

OPC has strongly advocated for clear, consistent consumer education at the outset of the meter installation process and throughout the duration of deployment so consumers are knowledgeable about how their electric service will differ.