East Palo Alto power surge destroys ‘significant’ number of Smart Meters
New concerns are being raised about Pacific Gas & Electric’s already controversial Smart Meters after several of them were destroyed by a powerful voltage spike Thursday night.
A tree branch fell onto power lines at Donohoe Street and West Bayshore Road at about 9 p.m., causing two to three times the normal amount of energy to course through the local electrical system, utility spokesman Joe Molica said.
A "significant amount" of the digital meters had to be replaced as a result, said Molica, who declined to state exactly how many.
A group critical of the utility pounced on the news Friday, saying durability should be added to a list of concerns about privacy, safety and the reliability of data transmitted wirelessly by the devices.
“A big concern here is the cost of something like this,”said Mindy Spatt, a spokeswoman for The Utility Reform Network “This is one more in a series of problems. Power surges are not uncommon, does PG&E expect to have more meters blow up in the future?”
Molica countered that the digital meters are not "any less robust" than the analog versions they replaced.
"A voltage surge can damage a meter, whether it’s a Smart Meter or an (analog one)," he said. "Any time you get a power surge of approximately two to three times the energy you would normally experience, you have to expect that."
The utility cut power to more than 230 customers near East Bayshore Road and Glen Way while it repaired the system overnight. Complicating the work, power lines fell onto Highway 101 at about 4 a.m. Friday. They were cleared by 5 a.m.
Power was restored to all but a handful of customers by Friday afternoon as PG&E crews went from home to home and business to business inspecting circuit panels and Smart Meters for damage. The utility also distributed claim forms to customers whose appliances were damaged by the surge, Molica said.
Naidelgo Fashion on the 1400 block of East Bayshore Road didn’t have power for most of the morning, but the clothing store wasn’t greatly affected because it opens at 10 a.m., employee Karla Escobar said.
"People were coming in and asking about it," Escobar said of the outage.