Smart Power Meters and Real-Time Pricing Leads to Saved Energy and Money

Smart electricity meter photo
Smart electricity meters and real-time pricing are an important first step in modernizing our electrical grid. Right now it is pretty dumb in most places, charging the same rate during peak hour as in the middle of the night, with no way to reward those who make an effort to have better consumption patterns.

But that's slowly changing. An example of that is PPL's pilot program that offers to install "smart" power meters and alternative pricing methods to the traditional "average monthly rate" to residential customers, something that has been available for years to industrial clients.

"By signing up tens of millions of people like Brubaker to change patterns of electric usage, the companies expect the new power meters and time-based rates to help avoid blackouts, curb greenhouse gas emissions and beat back the immediate need to build expensive new power plants."There are various levels of "real-time" pricing. Some work with big chunks of the day (from noon to 7 PM, for example). Others are really real-time, with fluctuations throughout the day based on demand on the grid. "People who sign up for such plans may receive signals, such as e-mails or cell phone messages, to tell them prices are climbing dangerously."

Smart Power Meter photo

Last year, about 95 percent of the participants saved money in Commonwealth Edison's open-enrollment residential real-time pricing program, thought to be the nation's first. The majority saved between 7 to 12 percent, the utility said.

Talk about a high success rate! And with the introduction of smarter appliances and electronics that can be programmed to react a certain way to certain rates, this should go higher. Right now the meters and rates might be getting smarter, but the savings still mostly depend on a person taking some actions each time rates go up or down.

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