The advent of the smart meter is leading to vast changes in how power companies distribute energy and how it's used by customers. New connectivity features will create more demand for energy solutions, while at the same time, influencing greater energy efficiency.
A Brief Definition of Smart Meters
A smart meter is a device that monitors a home or office’s usage of gas, electricity, and water. The data gathered by the smart device is then sent automatically to the utility company that owns and installed the meter.
Part of the reason utilities are rapidly adopting this new technology is because it will save them money on paying employees for physically visiting locations to conduct traditional meter readings. Smart infrastructure is particularly useful in developing countries and other economically distressed areas. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, about 70 million American homes are already equipped with smart meters.
Smart Meter Advantages for Consumers
One of the biggest advantages of utilities moving toward smart technology is the fact that it will lower energy bills for consumers. Consumers get more detailed information about their energy usage, which will reveal areas where they may want to cut back on usage in order to lower costs. Additionally, more elaborate data will encourage conservation and better use of energy, such as unplugging computers when not in use. Consumers will also have less blackouts to worry about, due to real-time system monitoring.
Smart Meter Disadvantages for Consumers
A noticeable disadvantage of smart meters for consumers is the fact that there will be an additional cost for installing them. Another issue will be heightened privacy concerns due to the amount of personal data that will be collected electronically. Since the data is collected remotely, it's almost like having hidden eyes in your home monitoring how you're using energy. Consumers will also need to stay more updated on energy equipment maintenance issues.
How Utilities Benefit from Smart Meters
Although smart meters are widely known for its use amongst consumers, they do also provide benefits for utilities, including:
Saving them time and resources from not having to manually collect manual monthly meter readings
- Providing real-time electric system monitoring
- Leading to more efficient use of energy
- Providing data for analysis to balance electric loads
- Reducing power outages
- Allowing for dynamic pricing
- Cutting down the need to invest in new power plants
- Using existing resources to maximize profits
Downside of Smart Meters for Utilities
On the other side of the spectrum, smart meters do also come with a few cons as well, such as:
Costs increases for training, equipment, and additional data storage
- Dealing with complaints and confusion from customers about new meters
- Requiring a long-term commitment to investing in new technology
- Having greater scrutiny for managing security and privacy involving Big Data
Most of the downsides of using smart meters, though, are short-term. Once the new system is deployed and employees understand the technology, smart devices will have the power to improve utilities and communities. For consumers, the key is to learn how smart meters will be monitoring your home and the ways in which your utility provider is keeping your data safe. Additionally, rural off-grid homes will likely experience slower adoption of smart technology.
Local governments and utilities are already planning for smart meter usage to grow. The rise of microgrids and clean energy, along with dynamic pricing and more uptime, will help boost interest in smart meter technology. Furthermore, high-quality analytics will help utilities better understand their customers, helping to refine their services.
To learn more about the smart technology revolution and how it will affect businesses, residents, and utilities, be sure to check out all the informative content in the Midwest Smart City Solutions blog!