A previous post was about smart meters in the UK. So what are we doing in the US? Smart meters, or the Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI), haven’t been seen too often in my residential area. However, according to EIA, they seem to be moving right along in the US with about $4 billion in “investments.” It’s nice to have a government that doesn’t spend, it invests and saves us the necessity of looking at that prospectus for our investments. EIA’s numbers from 2012 were ~43.2 million total, and 38.5 million were residential. The distribution by sector looks like this through 2010.
The smart meters have all sorts of features but the main feature is to record and transmit hourly electrical use, allowing the utility to bill according to hourly price if the utility is allowed to do that. Something like this has been going on for industrial and commercial users for a long time, hence all the peak shaving schemes.
Demand billing for residential customers seems to be the growth industry for smart meters. It supposedly will allow consumers to move electrical use from peak times to non-peak times through the mechanism of saving money by not paying peak prices. How well does it work? Winter peak demand periods are mornings when a majority of people are getting up and evenings when they come home. Summer, at least in this part of the PJM area the peak runs from 10AM-10PM. To actually reduce demand, what activities during the peak periods will most people defer to a non-peak period? And what net GHG emissions elimination happens because of this deferral. Are you going to do your laundry at 3AM to save energy? I think the findings in the UK bear out that the AMI saves very little. If they need to have brown out’s because of electrical demand, they don’t need smart meters.