Recently there’s been a lot of talk with regards to installing smart meters in all homes. These so called smart meters are essentially advanced electric meters which have the ability to identify power consumption in far
greater detail than the old regular meters. This information is then relayed back to the utilities company for monitoring purposes as well as billing, but the question remains, will these meters really make any difference as far as reducing power consumption is concerned. In order to shed some light on the topic, let’s take a look at exactly what one can and cannot expect from the new smart meters.
While the old power meters could simply measure the amount of electricity used, the new smart meters will have the ability to match consumption with times of usage. In other words, the electric company will be able to determine during which times the most electricity is being used and at such, they’ll then be able to offer different prices for electricity used at different times of the day and night. The aim is to encourage people to avoid using electricity during peak hours by offering the incentive of lower costs, should you choose to use most of your electricity during off peak hours.
Interestingly enough, the main electricity company in Italy is already providing electricity to more than 27 million customers via new electronic smart meters. These meters are not only able to measure power consumption, but they’re also capable of managing it. Furthermore, being solid state, they communicate via low voltage power lines which make it possible for the electric company to detect any outages or unauthorized use of power. They also make it possible for the electric company to turn the electricity supply on or off from a remote location.
Due to the numerous benefits, smart meters are also currently being implemented in New Zealand, Australia, Scandinavia, Turkey, Canada, and the Netherlands. In the United States however, smart meters still tend to be
restricted to only certain jurisdictions such as Los Angeles, northern California, and also some parts of Texas. As far as the United Kingdom and Ireland are concerned, it would seem that it’s only a matter of time before smart meters become the norm. Essentially, it’s become rather apparent that homeowners would like the opportunity to make their own choice with regards to buying power during times when the price is down, just as they would like to have a choice as to when they should sell any excess power they may have, back to the electric company.
The biggest problem with smart meter technologies is generally communication, since each meter must be able to securely and reliably communicate the information to a central point. This can be tricky, given the range of locations and environments in which these meters are located. Some solutions that have been proposed include cellular networks, radio, and power line communications.
Interestingly enough, the U.S. president has just recently called for 40 million smart meters to be installed, including 3,000 miles of transmission lines. As many have pointed out, this will be the first real upgrade to America’s electrical grid in more than 40 years. Many also believe that such changes will be so significant; it could be compared to the Internet, the telephone, and the country’s railroad. Of course it should be mentioned that one of the main reasons this project is being supported, is because it promises to be able to utilize electricity which has been generated from renewable resources. Additionally, it is also believed that this project will effectively reduce the need for any new power production facilities.
Smart meters can cost anywhere from a hundred to three hundred dollars to install – each. The amount depends on the quality of the smart meter in question, but it will be a significant investment. However, venture capitalists have been investing in this technology recently, so it may be possible. Soon, you could be choosing when you use power based on the price, and possibly saving money and energy.