Smart meters provide two levels of benefit for customers. At a broad level, they are an indispensable part of what industry experts call the smart grid. The
smart grid is an updated, modernized version of the current infrastructure that our nation relies on to carry electricity from power plants to our homes and buildings. This infrastructure consists of power lines, transformers, and dozens of other equipment to safely deliver the electricity that we need precisely when we need it. We call the infrastructure that we have right now the power grid or the grid.
As reliable as our grid is, power outages and other losses persist. In addition, electricity demands increase every year as we rely more and more on electric devices. For example, entire industries like transportation and agriculture are being electrified. In order to meet these demands, our grid needs to be more reliable, more resilient, more efficient, and smarter.
If the grid that we have today is a flip phone, the smart grid that we need to build for tomorrow will be a smart phone. Smart grid technologies comprise dozens of new interconnected devices that communicate with each other to monitor and control the flow of electricity in a much more reliable, resilient, and efficient way than what has historically been achieved.
If a tree falls down in a storm and disrupts power lines, smart grid technologies can instantly re-route the electricity to minimize or even eliminate the blackout. On a hot summer day, smart grid technologies can tell the power plant to burn less coal while simultaneously bringing online (much less expensive) electricity produced from solar panels. Smart meters collect more information more quickly about how much electricity consumers need, when they need it and when they aren't getting it.
The information is transmitted to the utility and other connected smart grid devices to enhance reliability (to make sure the power doesn't go out), resiliency (to restore electricity quickly if it does go out) and efficiency (to save money and the environment). None of this would be possible without smart meters to collect and transmit data. Each individual smart meter only plays a small role in constituting the smart grid. But taken collectively, they are indispensable to maximizing its benefits. Smart meters are the foot soldiers of the smart grid.
So how does this affect you? Smart meters do have some benefits for the individual customers they service. For example, they digitally record electricity consumption, which greatly facilitates consumer review of usage patterns over a specific period of time. Consumers can monitor this real-time or, at the very least, see these patterns when they pay their monthly bill. Understanding personal usage patterns help consumers make informed decisions about how to reduce consumption and cost.
Because legacy meters require in-person monitoring, most consumers only ever see an aggregated monthly total. In states that have variable rates (e.g., that change depending on the time of day) this information is even more valuable. And of course, once thousands of customers start making more efficient electricity usage decisions, the overall cost to produce and deliver electricity goes down, which results in
For more information on smart meters and the role they play in the smart grid - including concerns related to data privacy and consumer control - we recommend you visit this website.