Why Are Smart Meters Good?
Smart meters will allow utilities and customers to reduce
energy use and save money. Customers will save money by
being able to track their electricity usage in near-real
time and then making lifestyle choices and appliance-buying
decisions to lower their monthly utility bill. Customers
will also be able to switch to a time-of-use (TOU) rate
structure that allows them to take advantage of very low
rates during non-peak hours by choosing to run appliances
like washers and dryers at night, rather than during peak
demand periods. New appliances and thermostats will
interface with the new smart meters to run during non-peak
hours or to reduce their usage during peak hours.
Shifting electricity usage to off-peak hours will also help
reduce the utility's peak demand, reducing the number of new
power plants that they have to build. Imagine the hottest
day of the year. Every AC unit in the state is turned to 11
and the grid is straining under the demand.
Now imagine a normal day, when statewide electricity demand
is at about 80% of that hot day. This demand is met mostly
with hydroelectric, nuclear and very large power plants that
do not like to be turned up and down too much; they provide
the base load and they do so at about 33% efficiency. On the
hottest day, when the grid is at 100% that electricity has
to come from somewhere. Power plants have to be built and
sit idle most of the year, just waiting for that hot day.
These plants, called "peakers" can be ramped up and down
quickly to keep up with demand but are far less efficient.
So reducing the peak demand of the year actually results in
not needing to build extra power plants.
Did you know that some utilities have to rely on customers
calling to report an outage, and then drive around to
determine the location of an interruption? Not so with smart
meters. Smart meters will report outages automatically and
allow utilities to pinpoint a problem to within the distance
between two homes. Finally, smart meters eliminate the need
for someone to drive to your neighborhood once a month an
creep around your house to manually read you meter, although
I do hope that the utilities have new jobs for these people.
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