Smart Meter Installed

Hydro One installed the smart meter at my house today.

The power goes out for a few seconds when this is done, but the whole process takes only a few minutes.  The installer says he does 200/day.

I asked him a few questions.  The meters will continue to be manually read for the next few years, but of course there would be additional information about the time of day the electricity was consumed.  Eventually, they will install wireless receptors on the poles, and gather the information electronically.

The meters are really not all that smart.  Some smart meters allow the utility to send a signal to the meter, which can then forward the signal to various points in the house, to shut off discretionary appliances, like water heaters, or air conditioners.  This makes a truly smart grid, that could accommodate any sort of swing in demand or supply.  This type of grid would be ideal for integrating substantial renewable resources, by adjusting use to match supply.

But these smart meters aren’t that smart.  Instead, all they do is record what time of day, and what day of the week you consume power.  They will then create different standard pricing, with a lower price during off peak times such as night, or weekends, and the consumer who can shift demand, will benefit.  The consumer who can’t shift demand, will pay considerably higher prices.  Presumably programmable thermostat, timers on dishwashers, washing machines, and hot water heaters will become more widely used, so consumers can shift their demand.
The benefit of the smart meter program is that no doubt demand peaks will be trimmed.  This will mean that we will not need to invest as much in generation capacity to meet peak demand, so it may save us all money in the long run.  But it would seem to me that we will still use just as much electricity.  In fact, if the price of off peak power is low enough, we may well use more electricity, as it may make sense to switch from oil or natural gas heat to electricity at night.

If we use just as much electricity, we will use just as much fossil fuel to produce it.  If people switch from oil or gas to electricity for heating in off peak times, we will use more fossil fuel, as only about 1/3 of the energy in fossil fuel that is burned to make electricity makes it to the home.

Our smart meters might be smart economically (or they might not be smart, if the cost of the meters exceeds the cost of the avoided peaking plants), but it would seem to have no impact environmentally.

Leave a Reply