State regulators have ordered independent tests of NV Energy’s smart meters as part of a probe into whether they pose a fire hazard.
After reviewing hundreds of documents submitted by the utility, the Public Utilities Commission directed NV Energy to hire an outside laboratory to conduct the tests.
Company spokesman Rob Stillwell said the utility has already hired Underwriters Laboratory.
The PUC decided to launch the inquiry in October after fire chiefs in Reno and Sparks identified a string of fires they say started at a residential smart meter or the electrical panel into which it was plugged.
Most of the fires caused little damage to homes, resulting in only a destroyed or “consumed” meter and a blackened wall. But officials raised concerns about whether two fires that caused major damage to homes were started by a malfunctioning meter.
The PUC appears to be focusing on heat sensor alarms on the meters. NV Energy had stopped responding to the alarms because they were being tripped by direct sunlight or other issues that had nothing to do with a meter malfunction.
The PUC, in a filing submitted earlier this week, ordered NV Energy to determine whether the heat sensor alarm went off on any of the 77 consumed meters the utility has reported to the agency.
Regulators also want the utility to further investigate 20 consumed meters for which it was unable to determine a cause of fire.
The utility maintains that smart meters installed on 1.2 million homes and businesses in Nevada do not pose a fire hazard.
The company is in the process of improving heat sensor alarms on the meters. The sensors can shut down the meter and send an alarm to the utility if the meter has overheated.