The smart meter has been around for a number of years, but it is only now that it is becoming widespread. This electronic device is able to record the amount of energy that is consumed within a specific period of time.
Most often, the smart meter is used to take note of the daily and even hourly consumption of electricity within commercial and residential establishments. It can also be used to measure the use of other forms of energy such as gas and water, but it is most significant in the field of electric energy. Countries such as the United States, the United Kingdom, and even Japan have started promoting the use of this smart meter so that energy consumers may be more well-informed about their use of utilities, and also so that energy providers may know about the demands of the public.
Smart Meters use Two-way Communication
What sets the smart meter a notch above the regular automated meter is its ability to provide a two-way communication between the meter and the central system of the utility provider. This means that the service provider can gather data from the meter at least once a day, and they can also send “messages” to the meter so that it controls the consumption of energy of the customer. It is already remarkable that the smart meter can allow the energy service provider to gather data from consumers without sending someone over to physically check the meter, but what is even more notable is the ability of some smart meters to reduce the load and even disconnect and reconnect the consumer on a remote basis.
There are a number of reasons why having an in-depth knowledge about the level of energy consumption is highly relevant both for the service providers and the consumers. On part of the service providers, they will be able to know when the demand of the consumers is high and what adjustments they will need to do in order to address these demands. As for the consumers, it will be easier to point out when the level of consumption is highest and how it might be possible to lessen the costs brought about by this consumption.
Unbeknownst to many consumers, there are certain times of the day when the rate of energy is higher than the regular price. This often happens during the peak hours or when the level of consumption is highest. For example, energy that is consumed during the lunchtime is often rated higher. This can be attributed to the fact that this time of the day is when people use the most energy because of the heat brought about by the midday. As the demand for energy increases, so does the price of the commodity. The goal of smart meters is to inform the consumers of their usage so that they may adjust their consumption levels accordingly.
Public Acceptance of the Smart Meter
The use of smart meters is an advocacy that is led by most governments so that the public may become more intelligent when it comes to energy consumption. Japan is one country that has always been at the forefront of technology. The country’s Energy Conservation Center encourages the use of smart meters with built-in communication devices and private consumers are already implementing the system. In Canada, implementation has become a big success ever since the introduction of smart metering in the year 2007. One utility provider, BC Hydro in British Columbia, Canada, had all of its consumers using smart meters by the end of 2012. Unfortunately, the installation of these meters has been associated with incidents of fire, causing a moratorium to be passed that temporarily suspends the installation of more smart meters.
In the United States, the states of Texas, California, Florida, Maryland, Arkansas, and Oklahoma have all supported the implementation of the smart metering system. The system is continuously being developed so that it will be able to offer features such as energy budgeting and other options for energy conservation. Many consumers have volunteered to be included in the system, but there are still no significant changes in energy consumption that could be attributed to the use of smart meters. On the other hand, public utility providers are now able to gather more accurate data on the usage of consumers and it is believed that these data can be used to avoid black-outs and other problems with energy consumption.
On top of giving in-depth data and allowing both energy providers and energy consumers the opportunity to use this information to their advantage, smart meters also offer features for smarter energy consumption. Some smart meters have an automatic “kill-switch” which can turn the utility source off during certain times of the day or when the level of consumption has reached a pre-determined limit.
While this is the ideal effect that smart meters have, it is hardly the case for most of those who are now using the system. There are no considerable changes in the consumption levels of those who are using the smart metering system, and there are no significant savings that have been brought about by the installation of such systems.
On the contrary, some consumer advocates have pointed out that the use of smart meters has been more bad than good. Firstly, smart meters are costly to install and this additional expense is being shouldered by the consumers whether they like it or not. On a second note, there are also consumers who believe that they do not need meters to tell them how to save on energy costs. If you want to lower your expenses, then the answer should be to use less and less of your appliances and not add something else that could actually be costing a lot more to be functional. Another point that is also being brought forward is the issue of the disposal of existing meters. Again, not only will this move be costly, but it will also be contradictory to the smart system’s goal of saving energy and the environment.
All in all, there are still mixed conceptions about smart meters and how they can be an advantage or a disadvantage to consumers and utility providers. While it is true that every individual is entitled to his or her own opinions, what is more important is the fact that people now have to be more conscious of how they consume whatever resources they have and that the consumption of such resources also mean an obligation to be a responsible consumer.