RENO — State regulators have demanded NV Energy turn over data on smart meter failures as they launch a preliminary investigation into whether the 1.1 million meters they’ve installed on homes across Nevada pose any fire danger. The Reno Gazette-Journal first reported last week that fire investigators had documented nine fires in Reno and Sparks since 2012 that they say originated at the smart meters.
Most of the incidents caused only minor damage, but the most recent blaze killed a 61-year-old Reno woman in July.
Officials for NV Energy say they have investigated and don’t believe the meters caused any of the fires.
So-called smart meters wirelessly transmit information on a customer’s power use every 15 minutes. NV Energy began replacing the old meters with them in 2010 with the help of a $130 million federal grant.
But the fire chiefs in Reno and Sparks asked the Nevada Public Utilities Commission to investigate, and PUC lawyer Tammy Cordova issued a formal order Monday compelling the utility to turn over all documents related to the advanced metering infrastructure (AMI), known as Sensus smart meters.
Cordova noted that a private firm the fire departments hired — Oracle Forensics — to review the July fire and several others concluded a “common failure mode cannot be eliminated and needs to be seriously considered regarding the Sensus smart meters.”
“Given the lingering safety question presented by the Reno and Sparks Fire Department’s expert, Oracle Forensics, staff believes it would be prudent for the commission to gather some information from NV Energy regarding the AMI and any fires which have occurred where NV Energy equipment was involved,” Cordova wrote.
Among other things, the PUC wants copies of all fire investigative reports related to the meters and a list of all meter failures and/or alleged fires at, or near, the meters since 2000. It also wants a list of any lawsuits that have been filed against NV Energy involving fires and NV Energy meters during that time period.
NV Energy has 60 days to provide the information to the PUC.
Mary Simmons, the utility’s vice president of business development and community strategy, said Tuesday they intend to cooperate fully with the investigators.
“Some of the information may have been inconclusive, but we’re not aware of anything that has linked our smart meters to a structural fire,” she told The Associated Press. She said some fires could have started in electrical panels tied to the meters without the meter playing any role in the incidents.