PUC to review CMP's training of 'smart' meter installers

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SCARBOROUGH — The Maine Public Utilities Commission has scheduled a hearing for Central Maine Power Co. to explain the methods used to train technicians installing the company’s “smart” electric meters. 

The Jan. 25 hearing, planned from 1-3 p.m. at the PUC in Augusta, will explore the training and qualifications of meter installers employed by CMP vendor VSI Meter Services. The information presented will be used by the commission to determine whether it will open a formal investigation into the safety of these installations.

CMP received federal stimulus funds to purchase and install 640,000 wireless meters on all of its customers homes and businesses. The meters allow customers to monitor their electricity use in real time and eliminate the electric company’s need for meter readers. The installation process has already begun; more than 90,000 meters have been installed throughout the state.

The PUC hearing comes after 10 Scarborough residents filed a complaint with the regulatory agency last October, citing concerns that installation of the meters on homes with older wiring could cause fires. The complaint asked CMP to provide evidence of the training it provided to its technicians to aid them in detecting and reporting wiring problems discovered during the installations.

A related PUC investigation has already been opened to investigate whether allowing customers to opt out of the smart-meter technology is a feasible and financially viable solution to concerns about health and cybersecurity. The first hearing in this investigation, which will lay out the schedule and manner of the proceedings, has been scheduled for Jan. 24 at 9 a.m.

“At that hearing, the parties will decide together the process, what’s going to happen and what issues are going to be raised,” PUC spokeswoman Evelyn deFrees said.

The Jan. 24 hearing will also cover material CMP is scheduled to file on Jan. 18 in response to the PUC’s request for additional information.

According to deFrees, both technical hearings are open to the public, however only those involved in the complaints will be able to participate in the discussions.

Emily Parkhurst can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or eparkhurst@theforecaster.net

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