- The Public Utilities Commission of Texas (PUCT) on Thursday authorized publication of a proposed rulemaking that would allow several utilities to recover the cost of smart meter deployments in rates, helping expand the rollout of advanced metering infrastructure.
- The proposal would amend PUCT rules to address advanced metering and meter information networks in areas outside the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT). Texas rules already allow utilities within the grid operator's territory to recover smart meter costs.
- The proposed rule has support from utilities and environmental groups, though there is some difference of opinion over levels of required AMI and issues related to smart meter data collection.
Along with allowing four utilities to include AMI in their rates, the proposed rule amendments make some changes to data collection, including setting minimum capabilities for on-demand readings and alternatives to home area network capabilities which have seen limited use.
Utilities impacted by the proposal include Entergy Texas, Southwestern Public Service, El Paso Electric and Southwestern Electric Power Co. The amendment would align PUCT rules with 2019 Texas legislation that encouraged deployment of advanced metering and meter information networks by extending the applicability of the Public Utility Regulatory Act to electric utilities providing service outside ERCOT.
The changes are important if the electric grid is to deliver on its full promise, said Cyrus Reed, interim director and conservation director of the Sierra Club's Lone Star Chapter.
"If we're going to take advantage of all the new technology — smarter buildings and appliances, the use of on-site storage and solar — then having accessible, almost just-in-time meter data is really important," Reed told Utility Dive.
Reed said he'd give the proposed rule a B or B- grade. "There are some things in it that I don't think go far enough. ... They are not requiring utilities to provide full access to all the data," he said. While the utility can collect data in 15-minute increments, the proposal would only require utilities make readings available twice per hour.
That information would be available via Smart Meter Texas, where the state stores smart meter data for customers and authorized market participants.
The four non-ERCOT utilities jointly filed comments on the proposed rule, saying they "recognize the fast-paced evolution of technology and recommend additional alternatives that will grow into industry-accepted methods for providing real-time meter access and similar features that are currently provided through a [home area network] and connected devices."
Texas regulators will take comment on the proposed rule until Jan. 13, and then will allow two weeks for replies. Reed said he expects a final rule could be adopted in February.