What's the continuing story affecting ComEd's General Electric (GE) smart meters on Oak Park and River Forest homes, condos, apartments and businesses? [Two RF home fires connected to smart meters, Sept. 5, 2012 and Smart meters may be a dumb idea, Viewpoints, Feb. 13, 2013]
On Aug. 28, the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) issued their 14-page staff report, "ComEd Smart Meter Fires." This ICC staff report was attached to Steve Daniels' on-line article, "Human error caused ComEd smart meter fires: Report," (ChicagoBusiness.com/Crain's Chicago Business, Sept. 5).
In its 2010 pilot project, ComEd installed electric smart meters in nine communities: Bellwood, Berwyn, Broadview, Forest Park, Hillside, Maywood, Melrose Park, Oak Park, River Forest and Chicago's Humboldt Park.
ICC staff recommends that ComEd make presentations at an ICC meeting to explain their pilot project's smart meter fires and overheating. Would you agree with staff who advocate periodic inspections of smart meters to prevent future fires?
ComEd delays replacement of its pilot project's smart meters until Underwriter Laboratories (UL) certifies new adaptors and connection blocks, which "should reduce fire hazards."
According to ICC staff, three smart meter fires in River Forest and Berwyn happened at ComEd installations of "upgraded meter readers with minimal training." Soon-to-be shelved meter readers can't catch a break.
The ICC staff statements seem to whitewash smart meter fires:
"Smart meters were not the cause of the fires or over heating," "meter overheating and fires at ComEd electric installations are not the fault of smart meters," "ComEd's smart meters did not contribute to meter fires in ComEd's service area."
ICC staff concludes the primary cause of smart meter fires are aged, deteriorated meter bases and the electrical connections inside the meter bases that ComEd did not repair, replace or report; customer tampering; and accidents.
However, ICC staff also concludes that "ComEd should assume responsibility for the overheating meters and for the fires in meter bases."
According to the ICC staff report from November 2012 through June 2013, 91 meters were involved in fires. Who decides if smart meters cause the fires — the town's fire chief, the Illinois state fire marshal or the U.S. fire administrator?
During July 2013 smart meter installations in Leyden Township near Melrose Park, ComEd inspected 233 meters and found three that required repairs. It represents 1.29 percent of the inspected meter bases. And 1.29 percent of 4,000,000 meter bases on ComEd's system is 51,600 meter bases potentially requiring repairs.
Crain's Chicago Business editorial (Sept. 10, 2012) caught people's eyes. It read: "Based on preliminary investigations, the problem isn't so much with the meters as with the wiring in the homes. … How many homes and businesses around Chicago have older wiring that might not be compatible with the technology ComEd is peddling?
"You can choose to be comforted by the fact ComEd might let you opt out of installing a smart meter. Or you could remember that, whether ComEd fixes the problem or not, you'll still be paying for it. Now put that in your pipe and smoke it."
The title of the editorial was, "State fiddles while smart meters burn."
What say you, ComEd customers?
Barbara Mullarkey is spokesperson for the Oak Park Environmental Network (OPEN).
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