Sunday, 11 July 2010

Calif. examines smart meters as component of energy future

California has grand plans for saving energy, improving the electricity grid and cutting the number of power plants built in the state.

And many of those plans depend, at least in part, on the smart meter.

The advanced meter is a basic building block for the energy future that state officials are trying to create. The meter will change when and how people use electricity, proponents say.

It will pave the way for the widespread use of solar panels and electric cars as well as help reduce air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

“It’s kind of baked into the state policy that smart meters need to be in place,” said Andrew Tang, senior director of demand-side management at Pacific Gas and Electric Co. The utility, California’s largest, is installing the meters on every home and business it serves.

But the accuracy of smart meters — in particular, the ones used by PG and E — has been called into question.

Angry homeowners have complained that their utility bills soared after the new meters were installed.
Unlike old gas and electric meters, smart meters transmit data to the utility via wireless communication, eliminating the need for meter readers. The utility can also send instructions to the meter — for example, telling the meter to turn a home’s power on or off. The meters can also measure energy use by the hour or at even shorter intervals, giving customers detailed information about their energy use patterns.

Therein lies their appeal. State officials charged with meeting California’s future energy needs try to avoid building power plants whenever possible, to save money, cut pollution and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. One way to do that is to cut the amount of electricity the state uses during peak hours, typically in the mid- to late afternoon when air conditioners are cranking.

full article


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