RENO — NV Energy has turned over more than 1,000 pages of documents to state regulators as part of an inquiry into whether smart meters it installed on over 1 million Nevada homes and businesses pose a fire risk.
At the same time Friday, the utility outlined a three-step program to improve safety that includes closely monitoring the devices and using a different brand of meter on new homes and businesses.
The program also calls for the utility to update smart meters’ firmware so they can send a signal or shut down when they begin to overheat, the Reno Gazette-Journal reported.
The Public Utilities Commission decided to launch an inquiry in October after Reno and Sparks fire chiefs identified a string of fires they say started at a residential smart meter or the electrical panel into which it was plugged.
Most of the fires did little damage to the home, resulting in only a destroyed meter and blackened wall, but officials raised concerns about whether two fires that caused major damage to homes were started by a malfunctioning meter. One of the blazes left a Reno woman dead.
In its letter Friday to the PUC, NV Energy stressed that it takes customer safety seriously and already had begun working on safety upgrades to its smart meter program before the inquiry. But the utility concluded that smart meters do not pose a fire risk and there is no need to replace the 1.2 million meters it installed.
“Our analysis confirms what the Nevada state fire marshal had concluded in his report from earlier this year: that not one consumed meter has resulted in or caused a structure fire,” NV Energy spokesman Rob Stillwell told the Gazette-Journal.
In October, Fire Marshal Peter Mulvihill announced that his review of nearly a dozen fires at homes with NV Energy’s smart meters found that the meters themselves are not starting the fires.
He recommended that local fire chiefs continue to monitor the situation but concluded that smart meters pose no “statewide fire problem” at this time.
Mulvihill said he also was largely satisfied by NV Energy’s response to the 11 fires in northern Nevada — nine in the Reno-Sparks area and two in Gardnerville.
Information from: Reno Gazette-Journal, http://www.rgj.com