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Smart meter installation tops 7K

Naperville is ahead of schedule in installing wireless smart meters to its electric customers despite a few hiccups along the way, officials said Thursday.

Crews had installed 7,683 meters as of Sunday, nearly 300 more than planned, according to a report West Monroe Partners senior principal Fred Pammer made during a steering committee meeting.

City officials have said the meters will make the electric system more reliable, efficient and cost-effective, though a group of opponents has brought forward concerns about health, security and privacy.

The city is offering a non-wireless option, which 19 residents have chosen thus far, Pammer said. An additional 82 people have refused to allow the city to install a meter. Officials plan to contact those residents and return at a later date.

Pammer said installers have run into several angry residents and also dealt with some malfunctioning equipment  since installation began in early January. Tuesday, an installer experienced an electrical arc flash, but was wearing safety gear and was not injured.

Pammer said a wire had broken from a socket and arced over due to the house settling. Public Utilities Director-Electric Mark Curran said the issue is caused by the wiring behind the wall, not necessarily replacing meters.

“It’s a good opportunity by doing this whole program and doing this whole mass change-up to take a look at all those facilities and see what the issues are,” Curran said.

Councilman Bob Fieseler, who sits in on the monthly meetings on behalf of the City Council, asked staff to make sure they are keeping the old meters in light of a federal lawsuit filed by the Naperville Smart Meter Awareness Group. He also said, while he isn’t worried about rate gouging and health issues some opponents have raised, he does want to make sure controls are put in place to protect customer data.

“The thing I’m most concerned about is … internal pilfering,” he said. “I’m less concerned about people hacking from the outside than people from the inside, a rogue employee or a rogue consultant downloading data and leaving with it and monetizing it.”

Curran and Pammer said privacy is not an issue they are taking lightly and Pammer added he would be happy to work with a security consultant “to make sure what we put in place is state of the art and … if it isn’t we’ll find the holes and fix them.”

In the meantime, opponents are still pursuing a referendum on the March 20 ballot asking residents whether the city should stop the project and dismantle the equipment. After two losses in its bid for a ballot spot, the group is taking its case to the Illinois Appellate Court where it is awaiting a decision.

The city plans to continue installing meters in the coming months until it completes all 57,000 and is holding its next open house at 7 p.m. March 7 at its public works facility, 180 Fort Hill Drive. Officials also plan to roll out a virtual version of the open houses for those who can’t attend in person.

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