Smart Meter Deployment Growing in America
By Guest Contributors: Arielle Nagel and Elizabeth Phillips
A new study shows that approximately 40 percent of American households are now equipped with a smart meter, up from the 33 percent recorded in 2012, according to a report by the Institute for Electrical Efficiency (IEE). In total, about 45 million homes across the nation already have the advanced device with even more installations expected in the next year.
Some states have passed laws requiring the installation of smart meters, while others leave the decision up to the local utilities. Regardless of what drives the implementation of the high-tech device, utility companies across the nation have embraced it.
For example, PECO, a Pennsylvania utility, has just been given permission to accelerate its smart meter deployments, finishing five years early. All of its 1.5 million customers will have smart meters by the end of 2013.
What is a smart meter?
A smart meter is a digitized version of the meters already deployed on most homes and businesses around the United States. Like all electricity meters, a smart meter measures energy consumption. However, this advanced meter takes the process a step further, providing benefits for both the utility and consumers.
Traditional meters require a utility to send a meter reader to your home each month to get an accurate reading of your energy consumption before it can send your bill. But smart meters eliminate this step through direct communication. The advanced digital device can automatically send updates on your electricity consumption to your utility at least every hour.
Along the same lines, the direct communication allows smart meters to notify utilities almost immediately in the event of a power outage. This enables the utility to dispatch crews and get the electricity back on faster than ever.
Eventually, these smart meters will connect with the smart grid, a computerized version of the nation’s energy infrastructure. Though a smart grid is still about a decade away, the smart meter technology offers insight into how the computerized energy systems can benefit the nation.
Smart meters aren’t just an advantage to utilities. They also help consumers better manage their energy consumption. Each smart meter has a digital face that displays the energy consumption of a particular home. The information is updated just as often as it’s sent to the utility, so consumers can monitor their energy consumption and make changes to lower their energy bill.
CenterPoint Energy, a Texas utility, conducted a survey of 500 residential customers that had already received a smart meter to determine what their experience was like with the advanced technology. The survey found that 71 percent have even modified their energy use based on the real-time data they’ve collected from their smart meter.
Arielle Nagel and Elizabeth Phillips are both graduate students pursuing Master of Science degrees in Environmental Sustainability. They enjoy freelance writing that promotes eco-friendly living and a sustainable future. They welcome your feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com.
Meter image via Shutterstock.