Utilities around the U.S. are cranking out smart meters. A new report by the Institute for Electric Efficiency states that as of May 2012, almost one-third of households have a smart meter compared to one-fourth in September 2011, a huge increase in just eight months. The installations will continue to chug along with one-half of homes likely to have the meters by 2015.
Despite protests and the spreading of opt-out requirements by state regulators, utilities are still speeding along toward a better connected grid -- by the end of this year, 22 electric utilities in 16 states will have smart meters installed system wide. This is great news for many reasons. Smart meters help utilities to better manage power supply and demand by giving them real-time energy use information. They also help customers for the same reason.
Many utilities offer energy management programs along with the meters that allow customers to monitor their energy use and help them make energy efficient changes. Some utilities, like Oklahoma Gas & Electric, are managing peak demand and saving their customers money by implementing programs that encourage customers to conserve energy during peak hours. That conservation can eliminate the need for additional power plants to be built.
Peter Delaney, Oklahoma Gas & Electric’s CEO, said, “Smart meters have changed the way we interact with our customers, and how our customers view and use electricity. Last year, over 90% of our customers on SmartHours, a peak sensitive time-of-use plan, saved money. Plans like SmartHours help us better manage peak demand and can defer the need for a new power plant this decade.”
Smart meters also just help the electrical grid to run better. They allow utilities to know immediately when there is a power outage or any issues with the grid, letting them respond much more quickly. The U.S. grid desperately needs upgraded smart infrastructure and smart meters are an essential component of that. We're glad to see that despite the obstacles, they're hitting homes at a quick rate.