This post is the second and final blog in a series focused on smart meter malfunctions.

In yesterday’s blog post, we focused on the known facts of smart meter fire hazards, and the Recommended Practices (RPs) for smart meters to avoid potential and catastrophic failure risks. Following RPs in each of the processes from Part 1 of the series, as well as across the lifecycle of a smart meter, could significantly reduce the safety risk potential further without the need for increased and likely very costly, regulatory requirements.

For instance, an RP that addresses installation processes could require more diligence in inspection of existing meter sockets for potential fit of the smart meter conductors, as well as the use of new or alternative conductive substances to reduce potential resistance in electrical conductivity. While these kinds of measures may result in increased time per meter replacement, the increased costs would certainly be less than a return visit to replace damaged smart meters, meter sockets, or damage to equipment or facilities owned by the consumer.

Granted, development and power industry adoption of RPs could take some time to implement. Where time is of the essence for utility smart meter deployments currently underway, there is an additional option that can be implemented immediately, namely to perform quality assurance (QA) reviews in smart meter design, manufacturing, shipping, and/or smart meter installation. These reviews are not new to the utility industry as a leading practice, having been introduced by DNV KEMA during the first advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) deployments in 2006. However, they are also not used widely and consistently in the industry by utility program managers.

Included in a quality assurance audit would be validation of whether a particular manufacturer’s product can meet the requirements for a power utility. By using a combination of onsite (manufacturing facility) and offsite reviews, utilities can validate and more effectively predict potential risks related to areas such as smart meter design, manufacturing, oversight/management, component supply chain, problem identification and resolution, and service and support delivery. Having a qualified, third-party QA audit provides a documented assessment of the potential risk at that time, but also serves as a basis for the power utility and the manufacturer to collaborate on risk management actions, in advance of significant issues arising downstream in the smart meter lifecycle. Again, these steps can be taken rapidly, in advance of the development of RPs or new standards.

Therefore, a concluding question arises, namely: How long can a utility wait for such developments without taking direct action to minimize these potential risks? What is your view?

Check back with this site often, as we will seek to comment further on RPs, standards, and solutions for addressing risks associated with smart meter deployments, to achieve greater success for an AMI program.

By: Ron Chebra, vice president, and Rob Wilhite, global director, Management & Operations Consulting, DNV KEMA Energy & Sustainability

  1. Peter Mills
    October 5, 2012 at 5:11 am

    As you quite correctly point out in your article the best method of reducing the risk of smart-meter malfunctions is by removing the causes. Ideally, this should be done at the design and installation stages but unfortunately despite an organisation’s best efforts this is often not enough to prevent non-compliant meters being accepted into service. From my experience designing a quality control system for a large Australian smart-meter rollout, we had good success using a software application based of international acceptance sampling by attributes methods; i.e. ISO 2859.1. If batches of meters were found to exceed a maximum non-compliance limit at the manufacturer’s end they were rejected and the causes of the non-compliance investigated and corrected. Likewise, if a batch of installed smart-meters was found to exceed a specified non-compliance limit it would not be accepted into service until it was 100% inspected, non-compliances corrected then resubmitted for inspection. This methooldogy also proved to be more cost effective than using non-scientific sampling methods.

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