By Liz Enbysk
SGN Managing Editor
Leave it to the bright minds at DNV KEMA to take a good hard look at the facts surrounding the various reports of smart meters overheating and causing fires. In a two-part series on the company's SmartGridSherpa blog, Ron Chebra and Rob Wilhite start part one with a summation of what's known so far. For example, their first bullet point:
"Forensic evidence suggests that the problem is a known issue commonly called “hot socket”—a case where the blades of the socket receptacle are not making good electrical contact due to spreading, corrosion, or other insulating effect. As a result, the current flow encounters higher resistance at the contacts, causing excessive temperature rise and possible flash-over."
They go on to discuss other potential issues, from differences between traditional and solid-state meters to questions about installation quality.
But perhaps more to the point, they pose the question: What can electric utilities, manufacturers and other interested stakeholders do to minimize these potential risks? One suggestion they make is to develop an industry response in the form of Recommended Practices (RPs) in instances where current standards fail or contain gaps. They list four key areas where it would make sense to develop RPs addressing potential smart meter failure risks which you will find here.
In the second post, they acknowledge that development and adoption of RPs could take time. So another option that could be implemented very rapidly, Chebra and Wilhite note, would be to perform quality assurance (QA) reviews in smart meter design, manufacturing, shipping and/or smart meter installation. Though not a new idea in the utility industry, they say they are not used widely or consistently by utility program managers. You can read their take on the benefits of QA reviews here.
What do you think the correct response should be? RPs? QA? Something else? Use the Talk Back comment form below to tell us what you think.
And, for another perspective on the smart meter fire issue, click to page 2 for a video where you'll meet a Naperville, Illinois resident with some background in electronics and engineering. He discusses what he observed in three smart meter installations.