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The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (PPUC) on Thursday approved the Philadelphia Electric Company’s (Peco) plan to accelerate the deployment of smart meters to all the utility’s 1.6 million customers by the end of 2014.

Currently, approximately 619,000 customers now have the digital devices, and the PPUC’s ruling enables Peco to spend $282 million to complete the program five years early. According to Peco, the accelerated installation is going to save $58 million by eliminating the need to maintain two different meter systems until 2019, the original deadline for replacing the old meters. A 2008 Pennsylvania law requires big utilities to switch to smart meters no later than 2024.

The new meters provide consumers the option to choose time-of-use rates, or dynamic pricing. Tiered pricing encourages customers to switch energy use to off-peak hours.

In October, Peco plans to launch a Smart Time Pricing program pilot for some of the 619,000 customers who already have the new meters. Customers that enroll in the program, which will be operated in partnership with NRG Retail Solutions, will get a two-tiered price starting in January and fixed through early 2015. The costlier peak hours will be 2:00 to 6:00 p.m. weekdays. Peco spokesperson Catherine Engel Menendez says that customers will receive a guarantee that the plan will cost them less than the utility’s current default service.

Peco customers are paying for the devices through a surcharge in their electric rates. The fee is $1.53 a month for a customer using 500 kilowatt hours. While several other give customers the choice to opt out, Pennsylvania does not.

Peco temporarily suspended its smart-meter program last year after several of the new devices overheated and caught fire. The company replaced 186,000 of the installed devices with equipment from another manufacturer.

 

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