New electric meters more accurate than old ones, study shows

A detailed four-month study authorized by the Texas Public Utility Commission shows that new, digital "smart meters," which some homeowners blamed for higher winter electric bills, are significantly more accurate than the traditional electromechanical meters that they are replacing.

"This extraordinary and comprehensive study clearly shows the superiority of smart meters compared to traditional, electromechanical meters," PUC Chairman Barry Smitherman said in a statement announcing the test results by Navigant Consulting, which the agency hired for the job.

Navigant independently tested 5,627 of the smart meters and found only two inaccurate for an accuracy rate of 99.96 percent. Tests of traditional meters showed an accuracy rate of 96 percent, the PUC said.

Many of the protests about the new meters came in the winter in areas where they had been installed shortly before an exceptionally brutal cold spell. Oncor Electric Delivery, the transmission and distribution company installing the meters in North Texas and other parts of its sprawling service territory, said bills rose sharply because the cold weather resulted in much higher residential electricity consumption.

Navigant largely agreed with that conclusion.

Oncor has installed more than 1.1 million smart meters. As of July 1, nearly 1.6 million had been installed in regions of Texas with competitive retail power markets that fall under the state's electric deregulation law, passed in 1999, the PUC said. Upon completion, about 6.5 million customers in the deregulated areas will have smart meters, the agency said.

Jack Z. Smith, 817-390-7724