Will Smart Meters Transform the Way Utilities Deliver and Customers Use Energy?

Amanda Gassé for Zondits, September 16, 2015. Image credit: www.girlygeekdom.com

The deployment of advanced metering interfaces (AMI) equipment is dramatically increasing and has the potential to change not only the way utilities deliver energy and consumers use energy, but also the way energy efficiency evaluators analyze data. The increase of AMI system installations has increased the quantity and quality of the data that utilities collect on consumers. The information is being used to develop the smart grid and achieve objectives, including, the development of demand response, energy efficiency resources, intelligent efficiency technologies to integrate real-time metering, smart appliances for consumers, and automated metering. AMI is an integral part of the smart grid model because it provides a structure for both the consumer and utility to understand energy consumption behavior and improve current system load factors. Consumption patterns from AMI data will quantify factors such as time and temperature on heat pump cycling or occupancy patterns. The data collected from AMI systems provides energy efficiency evaluators with the opportunity to estimate savings and coincidence factors, and to incorporate real-time analytics into the measurement and verification process. Consumption patterns will quantify factors like time and temperature on heat pump cycling or occupancy patterns. The development of a smart grid advances the opportunity for richer and more advanced data and increased opportunities for energy efficiency.

Can Utilities Get Smarter with Smart Meters?

The Energy Collective, September 10, 2015.

In this day and age where information is always at our fingertips and we are constantly connected, the lack of customer engagement in the electric utility industry – on which all our smart electronic devices depend – is mind-blowing. In 2014 alone, the electric utility industry in the United States had revenue of over $389 billion from end use customers. In spite of that level of outlay, it is estimated that the average residential customer only spends about nine minutes a year engaging with an electric utility. Smart meters can change all that. These sophisticated meters have the potential to transform how customers and utilities manage electricity delivery and use. Whether they will, however, depends on how they get put to use – and both utilities and their regulators have a role in that.

The key to all this is not the meter itself, but rather the integrated network of smart meters, communication systems and data management that makes up advanced metering infrastructure (AMI). AMI connects a home to the electric grid through a two-way communication system capable of recording and transmitting data between the end user and the utility. AMI opens the door to a world of possibilities, including real time energy tracking, load forecasting, time varying rates, demand response, real time outage detection and restoration notification, dynamic voltage control, and enhanced customer service.

Source: AEE Analysis of EIA-861

But it all starts with the meter. According to the EIA,  there are currently 52 million smart meters (classified as AMI by the EIA) in the U.S., about 37% of all meters. This represents significant deployment, but far from the universal usage that would allow for major changes in rates and programs. As shown in the graphs below, California leads the nation in AMI meters installed, followed by Texas. But only Maine, Nevada, and Washington, D.C. have more than 90% smart meters installed.   Furthermore, only 1% of meters in the U.S. are AMI-connected to a home area network (HAN) gateway – which allows the meter to communicate with devices within a customer’s home. Also, 35% of meters are Automated Meter Reading – allowing the utility to collect data for billing either through a fixed cellular network or through a drive-by van with remote capability, but not two-way communication and other more advanced capabilities. Then there are the 27% meters still in service that are an iteration on Hungarian Otto Titusz Bláthy’s 1889 electric meter.

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