There doesn't seem to be a lot of discussion in forums such as this one about Smart Meter technology and where the industry is at this point. I know they are being implemented on the eastern portion of the U.S.
My understanding is that there are health related concerns about them but to what extent I don't have personal knowledge. On the surface they would seem to be a logical choice for electrical energy savings. Does anyone have first hand knowledge on how the Smart Meter industry is developing?
Just a quick primer on them: http://blog.sls-construction.com/2011/reading-your-electric-meter
The RF concerns are way over baked - from Ben Stallings blog: http://blueboathome.com/EMF
The utility here has installed smart meters for more than 95% of accounts. Apparently at some point in the near future we will have the ability to monitor our usage via the internet. I'm sure a few folks will embrace this, but most will barely notice. The main advantages will be to the utility, in terms of more accurate metering and remote monitoring/troubleshooting capabilities.
Smart meters eliminated a whole lot meter readers and overhead for the utility. I have heard that when all smart meters are installed, the utilities will put everyone on (TOU) time of use. If you use energy at the wrong time, you will PAY. Also the current smart meters are not working out with a net metering arrangement, so the utilities had to go back to the previous (not so smart) meter used with a grid tied photovoltaic system until they work out the bugs.
We have one on our house, love it. We can monitor use online in 15 minute increments although the data is about 2hrs behind "real time". Works great for instant feedback of what energy saving measures work and which ones don't. TOU rates are OPTIONAL in our area, our utility even offers a 1 year guarantee of rates being no higher than it would have been on standard rates. We signed up for TOU, it has saved us considerably. Our program offers 1/2 price power compared to standard rates during "off peak times". On peak is 2-7pm weekdays in summer months where rates are about 2.5x standard, all other times are considered off peak.
Thanks for the reply, Bob. Could I talk you into posting a picture of it?
We have had them here in San Diego Gas and Electric for some time now. They started rolling out a couple of years ago. They installed both gas and electric smart meters. They have a system called Energy Charts which came on board about the same time Google PowerMeter was killed. http://rede3.com/Why_Google_PowerMeter_failed.html
There have been no problems and the system is up and running quite nicely
Maybe interesting bedtime reading: Realizing the Energy Efficiency Potential of Smart Grid, by Me (I'd recommend the PDF link there if you're actually going to read the whole thing).
As for health concerns, the majority consensus seems to be you're worse off with a cell phone, cordless phone, baby monitor, or microwave oven than you are with a smart meter. Some smart meters use the same GSM technology that mobile phones use. I won't claim this report from UTC is unbiased research, but it could be informative.
In terms of industry development, they're well on their way to being pervasive in the US, despite hiccups and occasional poor communication from utilities. Italy and Malta both already have essentially 100% implementation, many other countries around the world are committing to large-scale roll-outs.
Smart meters offer opportunities for both consumers and utilities to save energy. Real time monitoring of electric usage allows the grid to be operated at much tighter tolerances, resulting in greater efficiencies and reliability. This is all good for everybody. Besides the advantages of online monitoring and being able to monitor in real time the electric usage of individual appliances and systems, not every consumer is having a warm and fuzzy experience with their new smart meter in the central valley of California. In 2009 and 2010, I was active as a solar power consultant, typically performing at least three presentations a week to home owners. The presentation almost always included an analysis of their last 12 months electric usage. A significant percentage of home owners that purchased Photovoltaic systems from me were really angry because of their increased bills with their new smart meter. Their new smart meter was registering higher usage and their bills were often much higher, as much as 50% in extreme cases. It was not uncommon to hear of bill increases as much as 25% to 35%, even though the home owners were telling me nothing had change in the way they used electricity. As an experienced sales person asking homeowners fact finding questions, their reason for looking into solar was often the same on a significant percentage of my appointments. These home owners were looking into solar electric because of their frustration with their smart meter. They were highly motivated to lower their newly increased electric bill and maybe even more so they were angry enough that they wanted to stick to the man. There were enough home owners angry with their smart meters that I was seeing them on the local news venting their frustration on a somewhat regular basis. It was not to many months after these galvanizing local news stories started showing up that the utility in this area reduce their tier 5 rate down to a tier 4 rate and they called it summer relief. Until very recent, the rates had not been raised again. I personally saw my usage at home jump up significantly and my bills increased by 20% to 25% when they put a smart meter on. When I called the utility, all I got from them was that my original meter was antiquated and under registering the usage. It felt like they were telling me I should be grateful for my discounted electric cost prior to getting a smart meter installed. Now that’s some good spin. I might have believed them but I was meeting people sometimes almost weekly that were telling me the same thing and it was showing up on the news as well.
TOU rates are an option here in the central valley. TOU can work very well for a young couple that leaves in the morning and returns in the evening to an empty house. I don’t believe TOU works nearly as well for an elderly couple or for someone home all day with an infant in the home that needs to keep their home cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Here in the central valley the highs in summer average around 98F and the lows in the winter average around 38F. I have heard from several sources that the utility will put everyone on TOU once the installation of smart meters has been completed. Whether or not they have an infant or an elderly person in the home. The key here is currently TOU use rates are currently option that work well for many, but soon they may be mandatory for all.
In our area TOU is required to be "revenue neutral". This means a person bill under TOU and standard rates should be the same if the consumer doesn't change usage habits at all. Our utility will even switch you back to the standard rates AND refund the difference (up to a year) if you paid more under the optional TOU. Doing simple things like delaying laundry, dishwasher, etc is enough to make TOU worth it, even if you don't adjust the thermostat. OG&E encourages consumers to "precool" their house before 2:00PM, then raise thermostat until 7:00pm.
I haven't thought about all the extra revenue OG&E is getting from eliminating all the old "slow meters", perhaps the payback for upgrading everybody to smartgrid will pay off for OG&E sooner than they thought.