Y’all here in Texas might recall the “smart meter” controversy that flared up over the last year as Oncor and other grid providers began swapping old electric meters for the new “smart meters”.
An advantage to the new meters is that they read themselves and report back to the provider your usage. No more “meter man” required. There are other, later benefits we will supposedly realize from this massively expensive project, but that one right there is the heart of the controversy that came up.
Hundreds of thousands of them were changed over in a matter of months (it’s still going on).
A meter, out in the field, reporting usage back to headquarters over the (imperfect) electric lines…talking through noisy connections and transformers, along with hundreds of thousands of other meters…implies some interesting software, data transmission, and hardware/management capabilities.
From a tech side, it’s an interesting project and anybody that’s ever done *anything* like it knows there will be problems. Just the logistics of replacing a couple million of the things and getting all the numbers right is a big challenge.
So, there were deployment errors, software errors, hardware problems, handwriting problems, network problems…and every other kind of problem.
People were overbilled, underbilled, cut off, moved across the state (at least, their service address was) etc. Oncor and the meter company were adamant that everything was hunky dory and any problems were the fault of the consumer not understanding simple stuff, like how much electricity they might use or perhaps, where they even lived.
Eventually it all came to a head with a declaration from Oncor that all the problems had been addressed and there were no more issues with the consumer side of it.
They basically declared that their readings and billing were accurate and beyond question. The PUC backed them up.
We all know better, but every now and then ya just gotta let them dig their own hole.
Me? I know it will all work out and really haven’t worried it…so, why this article?
Well, I just got the electric bill for the month of January on the Old Vic.
Now, we don’t use a lot of electricity unless we’re running air-conditioning…but we do use. A big refrigerator, fans in the heaters, computers, the lights…heck, just the coffee maker should be good for 30 kilowatt hours or so for the month.
So…what did we use in the entire month of January according to the infallible system?
We used ZERO kilowatt hours.
ZERO kilowatt hours X 10 cents/each = $0.
That’s one bill that’s no trouble to pay this month. I think I’ll shoot for double the usage next month!
But so much for accurate billing/reporting.
Oh, and that’s the problem with declarations…
What happens when, after declaring “I’m unequivocally, simply, and beyond dispute…ALWAYS right”, it turns out you were wrong?
Maybe I should put in all-electric heat?