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Smart Meters and the Stimulus: We Can Do Better

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Around the U.S., a number of smart meter installation projects are being paid for with tax dollars, provided by the federal stimulus package. I was very surprised –shocked even– that the projects, so far as I can tell, don’t mandate the meters to provide an option for connecting to the Internet. This, at the same time other stimulus money is going to expansion of the broadband infrastructure!

These smart meters could be using the Internet to connect to the utility back office or to devices and management systems inside customer premises. Being able to interface the smart grid to devices on the customer side of the meter could be a boon to energy management and conservation technologies.

Instead, the utilities are using smart meters for their narrow and immediate interest, seemingly without regard for what is possible today and needed long term. For consumers, the first impact of the smart meters being installed may well be time-of-day metering, which can easily translate into higher energy costs. As a taxpayer, I’m appalled that federal dollars are being used to help the electric utilities streamline their operations, while at the same time making it easier for them to charge consumers more money.

A truly “smart” grid would work to bring benefits to both power companies and their customers.

We should demand smart meters that better support real-time management and conservation for energy consumers. The utilities do not, as yet, see a benefit in doing this and politicians don’t understand the issues involved. It is up to consumers to demand an electric grid that works to their benefit, not just to the benefit of the power companies. Doing that requires customers to be educated. Sadly, there seems to be little interest in sharing useful information with customers, especially when power company interests might be threatened by doing so.

While I don’t believe the utilities have anything to fear from smart consumers, their anxiety is understandable. It must be overcome.

Written by Marco G.

November 17, 2009 at 3:14 pm