Although 2010 has been a mixed bag across the nation when it comes to implementing elements of the smart grid, the major Electric Distribution Companies (“EDCs”) in Pennsylvania have all received PaPUC approval of their smart meter implementation plans. And while the Commission appears eager to embrace the new technology, the common denominator among most of these electric distribution companies is a slow prudent rollout:

  • Allegheny Power – By December 31,2010, Allegheny will have trained personnel, installed support equipment and software, established network designs and tested and certified Electronic Data Interchange transaction capability, paving the way for the first batch of 93,100 smart meters to be deployed in March of 2011.  Allegheny’s Smart Meter Plan may be found on the Public Utility Commission’s website by entering docket number M-2009-2123951 in the search box.
  • Duquesne Light – Duquesne will extend and complement its existing advanced meter capabilities based on analysis and evaluation of several key issues.  The Company is conducting studies on smart meter network design, smart meter installation and training, and information technology systems and software upgrades. Like other utilities’ plans, much of Duquesne’s final deployment plan will be shaped by the outcomes of these assessments. Duquesne has a contractual obligation with Itron for Automatic Meter Reading infrastructure maintenance, which does note expire until the end of 2013.  Once the Itron contract expires, it will begin its 5-year major deployment of smart meters beginning in 2014 to be completed by January 2019, according to its 2009 smart meter plan. 
  • FirstEnergy – Before one meter is installed, the company will take the time necessary to address issues regarding personnel training, equipment procurement, software and testing. By the end of 2013, a pilot batch of 5,000 to 10,000 smart meters will be deployed;this technical trial will feature an Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) test laboratory. Following a successful trial, it will deploy up to 60,000 smart meters to “de-bug” the system before full deployment. FirstEnergy’s Smart Meter Plan on behalf of Met-Ed, Penelec and Penn Power may be found on the Public Utility Commission’s website by entering docket number M-2009-2123950 in the search box. 
  • PECO – In October 2009, the company was awarded $200 million dollars in a Smart Grid Investment Grant from the federal government, which will be used to defray the costs of smart meter procurement and installation. PECO has already selected vendors and smart meter technology, and is currently field testing its Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) as well as developing the technology necessary to support smart meters and related systems. You can expect to see the first batch of smart meters for PECO be deployed in October 2011.  PECO’s Smart Meter Plan will ramp up deployment starting in August of 2012.  
  • PPL – The company is a leader among Pennsylvania EDCs when it comes to smart meters.  PPL was an early adopter of Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI), having installed the meters several years before there was a legal requirement to even submit a plan. Accordingly, PPL states that its current meters either meets or exceeds the minimum requirements of Act 129 under the Public Utility Commission’s order.  Notwithstanding, beginning in January 2011, PPL will launch pilot programs for bidirectional data communications capability, direct customer access to price and usage data and remote disconnection and reconnection. PPL will evaluate semiannually next-generation AMI technologies and smart-grid integration.  PPL’s Smart Meter Plan may be found on the Public Utility Commission’s website  by entering docket number M-2009-2123945 in the search box.

Based on PPL’s experience when it implemented AMI, it does not appear that Pennsylvania EDCs will have to deal with the customer backlash currently taking place in California.  Time and full deployment will tell.

Edward P. Yim contributed to this post.