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Pepco smart meter installation is behind schedule

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Pepco (Examiner file photo)

The installation of Pepco smart meters that the company hopes will lead to approval of a rate increase for customers is behind schedule.

About 429,000 Maryland Pepco customers -- roughly 78 percent -- have the devices installed, Pepco spokesman Marcus Beal said. Smart meter installation began in July and was expected to wrap up before the beginning of the new year. The remaining 121,000 customers should expect their installations to be completed by the end of January, Beal said.

Pepco originally sought a rate increase that would cover the smart meter installation, but was denied the request. The Maryland Office of People's Council did not support the increase and argued Pepco couldn't prove the new meters were cost-effective for customers. With the installation, meter rates have not gone up.

But the company is expected to push for the increase after the meters have been shown to be effective, according to documents.

"[Pepco] won't get rate recovery until [it] shows us that these things are providing some benefit," Deputy People's Counsel Theresa Czarski said, adding the office would have to review the system after it has been fully installed for some time to determine effectiveness.

The company received $68.5 million in federal stimulus money to install the meters, which will allow Pepco to transmit information through radio signal to and from a single residence. Neal said this will allow Pepco to get an hour-by-hour usage report for homes, as well as be notified immediately when an outage occurs, without residents having to call.

Neal said now that customers can see their daily usage of energy, they can reduce their consumption and save money.

In Montgomery County, there have been a few reports of customers being overcharged after their smart meters were installed, though the company claimed this was not a result of the new meters but because of the company's reliance on estimated bills while customers were transitioning to the new meters.