Smart Meters are Good for Electricity Providers and Customers

Imagine one day you walk into your kitchen and take a look at your energy usage console. You notice that your energy consumption is unusually high. It's the middle of the afternoon in Dallas and the air conditioning is at high pitch. You punch a few buttons, and just like that, you turn off the dishwasher and the washing machine, reprogram them to run later in the evening, turn off your son's television which he has left on, and turn up the thermostat a couple of degrees on the air conditioner. You re-check your energy usage; much better. You are now using considerably less premium-priced, peak period electricity.

Sound like a sci-fi fantasy? This sort of scenario is actually very close to becoming a reality with the new smart meters already installed in homes and businesses across the nation. A smart meter, or advanced metering system, records and stores information about your power usage, and transmits that information in short bursts directly to the transmission and distribution service provider (TDSP), who in turn provides it to the appropriate retail electricity providers for billing purposes.

Using this information, electricity providers are able to provide incentives to customers to reduce energy usage during peak periods, which will forestall the need to build new power plants. Using technology currently in development, customers will be able to track their energy usage on an in-home monitor, and actually start, stop and reprogram appliances wired in to the system. They will not only be able to track ongoing power usage, but cumulative usage throughout the month. No more will customers receive surprise power bills after a month of heavy electric usage.

Everyone Benefits

Electricity providers will benefit as well, by not having to send meter readers out to individual homes. Individual outages will be instantly reported (if only through the smart meter suddenly dropping off line), and smart usage will reduce the time needed to process service orders, such as starting or stopping electrical service. By providing incentives for reducing power usage during peak periods, electricity providers will be able to postpone building expensive new power plants just to handle peak loads.

Finally, the planet will benefit, as the added convenience provided by smart meters and monitoring systems will prompt customers to use considerably less energy. Being able to see exactly how much power they're using at any given point in time, and being able to switch off or reprogram lights and appliances from one central display will make it easier and more convenient for customers to reduce their power consumption, thereby saving money and reducing their carbon footprint all at the same time.

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