Utility companies are spending billions of dollars to replace analog meters with smart meters over the next few years. With this new technology, companies can analyze energy consumption data far more effectively. This allows for more accurate meter readings, better pricing schemes and a platform for two-way data sharing between customers and their utility providers.
Utility Dive compiled a list of five key advantages that smart meters provide, as well as a list of five anxieties that the public has about them. Here are the benefits:
1. Increase energy efficiency by keeping track of peak usage timings.
The demand for energy consumption during peak usage is so high that households and businesses need to allocate a large amount of their generational capacity to a relatively small time frame. A report by Alcatel-Lucent describes how the current electricity distribution system is unable to solve this problem. Analyzing information collected by smart meters, the report argues, offers a solution. By monitoring patterns of electricity usage, utility companies can set prices personalized to each consumer’s usage habits. This way, energy devices are used more efficiently throughout the day.
2. Fare better during a power outage.
In light of the storms that left the East Coast without power for days earlier this month, GigaOM highlighted the benefits of having a smart metering system during an outage. Smart meters provide up-to-date information on energy usage from remote locations, so utility companies are immediately informed on the location of areas that have lost power. Smart meters can also provide information to consumers on which areas have power locally and set off instant alerts when the power has been restored.
3. Manage personal energy consumption.
Smart meters are designed to allow and encourage consumers to participate in analyzing personal consumption habits. A segment on PBS NewsHour featured homeowners who are fully engaged with their smart meter’s capabilities. They could easily read their meter and process data into computer software for an overall picture of their energy needs. This system of sharing information allows consumers and utility providers to be equally informed so mutually beneficial decisions can be made.
4. Save money and conserve power.
A major advantage of having easily accessible information on personal energy consumption is the ability to identify periods of excess. This analysis is already performed by utility companies to determine pricing, but the consumer can also have a role in reducing consumption during peak usage times and lower costs by changing their patterns according to their own interpretation of the data. Of course, as an article from Which? points out, this is only achieved if consumers make an effort to monitor smart meter data and change their consumption habits accordingly.
5. Reduce utility problems associated with solar energy.
As argued by this eMeter write-up, smart meters allow for better integration with solar power. Existing electric grids can only accommodate a limited number of solar devices because too many would destabilize the grid. By using smart meters, utility companies can get remote access to solar power consumption data and make necessary adjustments more effectively. Smart grids can sustain 60% more solar power than traditional grids can, according to research by Navigant Consulting and the Technical University of Berlin.
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