Ky. utilities sue maker of energy-saving devices

A pair of Kentucky utilities are suing the maker of energy-saving thermostats, saying the devices pose a fire hazard and the company wouldn't help replace them or reimburse them.

Louisville Gas & Electric and Kentucky Utilities, which are owned by the same parent company, and East Kentucky Power Cooperative installed at least 21,000 of the thermostats in homes and businesses around the state before getting notice that a similar device had been recalled in July by maker Comverge.

The Kentucky utilities say that they weren't immediately notified of the recall and that they were assured the items were different from LG&E and East Kentucky Power's thermostats. But a fire at an LG&E customer's home in November 2009 was centered around the device.

The utilities are seeking unspecified damages from Georgia-based Comverge.

East Kentucky Power sued Comverge in federal court in Lexington on Monday, while LG&E and KU sued last month in federal court in Louisville.

A message left for a Comverge spokesman was not returned.

At issue are thermostats designed to help utilities control energy loads of customers on a volunteer basis by shutting down air conditioning during peak energy demand times.

LG&E and KU bought 25,000 thermostats from 2005 through 2009 and installed 14,000. "We've removed 90 percent of those," LG&E spokeswoman Chris Whelan said. Whelan said removing the thermostats cost about $2 million, with more costs likely.

East Kentucky Power bought 7,500 thermostats for its SimpleSaver program in 2008 and 2009 and installed about 3,000.

It began removing them from customers' homes in January.