Smart meters

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.


11 responses to “Smart meters

  1. Smart meters allow the utility to reduce or turn off your metered location when “others” need the reduced electricity available for their needs. A band aid for the well known shortcomings of renewables. Of course increases in costs will be automatically recorded, billed and collected using current technology. Your option for refusal must be based on life care medical device or critical interruption of “service”. Sitting in the dark, cold and unprotected property is your compelled contribution to reducing AGW. You will lean to plan your life around the weather predictions, just like the 1500’s. That is what moving forward means. While waiting for energy you may learn to talk to the animals for their forecasting. the use of entrails is not currently considered science by our betters. Computer models are thought to be equally accurate.

    • I’m always happy to have my betters looking out for my benefit. And when they shut me down when the morning coffee is supposed to come on, it’ll be run by a portable generator.

  2. “Demand billing for residential customers” could be a good idea. Utilities have real costs associated with demand. Variable, time-of-day rates is a way to do it, which “smart” meters can accommodate.

    Money is saved by the utilities in minimizing production capacity, to meet lower demand. Capacity has fixed cost.

    That said, as you say, Bob, demand is high at times because that’s when people are home and doing necessities. They can only change so much.

    Domestic utilities are regulated monopolies, with guaranteed rates of return. If savings from smart meters are nominal, there will be no savings. Unless a power plant is actually eliminated, all that will happen is your rates will be raised to cover the savings. The power company isn’t going to lose. By law.

  3. In California I don’t foresee enough or surplus capicity to be the meters issue. Renewables will not provide the current or demand capicity to operate. It may be some comfort to know the smart meter can bill for that which we did not recieve. The system will be in balance. pay more for less. Jerry Brown has said “less is more” who knew?

  4. If they need to have brown out’s because of electrical demand, they don’t need smart meters.
    No, they need more energy supplied to the grid.

  5. I live in Houston, went to work one morning and came home to a brand new smart meter. No notice, no permission, just came in my back yard and did it. This has nothing to do with efficiency or savings and everything to do with control. Now the government knows and can control remotely how much power I use. The evidence of which is I get a weekly email from my provider with a graph of my daily usage complete with admonishments to be ‘green’.

  6. I have a BIG problem with brownouts. They have a responsibility to provide me with the power that they promised, or it is breach of contract. The contract I entered into was that they would provide power and I would pay for it. If it is turned off for any reason other that system failure or failure to pay it is wrong.

    Build more capacity, don’t limit my use because you don’t have enough to supply what you have sold. THAT IS FRAUD in any other business.

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