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Smart Electric Meters Aren’t Always Right

Background. In 2017, Con Edison announced that over the next five years it planned to replace nearly 5 million electricity meters with smart meters, digital devices that promised to deliver hands-on knowledge about exactly how much energy a building – or apartment – is using every day. The new meters would transmit readings on an ongoing basis, rather than being read monthly by a Con Edison employee.


Generation gap. The old electricity meters were mechanical, with a small disc inside that rotates. “Friction affects the rotating speed of the disc, which is the accuracy of the meter, so they get slower over time,” says Eric Jacobsen, the communications manager at Quadlogic Controls, a submetering and energy services company. The result is inaccurate readings, meaning inaccurate electricity bills.


New glitches. There is an occasional disconnect between the smart meters and the utility’s billing system. “Let’s say a smart meter was installed at the beginning of the year; for up to six months, it may not be able to sync with the Con Edison billing system,” says Alexander Zafran, a senior consultant and the business development lead at Aurora Energy Advisors. “Even though the meters are recording data, they may not be communicating the data properly to Con Edison.”

If Con Edison’s estimates are based on historical data from old, worn-out meters that may have been inaccurate, when the actual bills are eventually sent to consumers, they may end up being much higher than expected.


Proactivity pays. It’s unclear how seriously the utility is taking these issues. “Con Edison has installed nearly 3.8 million smart meters since 2017,” a spokesperson says. “There have been isolated cases of billing issues, but they are rare.”

Still, Zafran is adamant that boards need to pay close attention: “If a board doesn’t have an external energy consultant, it’s on them, because I don’t think Con Edison can be trusted to resolve all of these issues. Boards need to be diligent about looking at their invoices.”

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