The smart grid is an effort underway that implements the latest technology available to improve electrical grid distribution here in the USA and abroad. If you live in North Texas, you probably have Oncor as your local electrical distribution provider. Oncor has installed over 1,000,000 smart meters already. What is a “Smart Meter” and why should I care?
Utility companies are installing smart meters daily. Someday everyone will have a smart meter. The old spin-dial type meters are becoming old and obsolete. The new smart meters are digital and are built with a technology that transmits information of consumer energy use back into the grid for analysis and consumer control.
Using the smart grid, you will be able to adjust your home energy use settings remotely by computer. More and more people will be able to adjust their home thermostat from their office, set their clothes dryer to start late at night, and control lights in their home. These are just some of the many ways the smart grid can affect your energy use.
The goal of the plan behind the smart grid encourages people to run their home heating, cooling, appliance use, and electronics more wisely to eliminate high energy use during peak hours. In other words, you begin paying more for electricity during high energy use hours and will be rewarded for using energy in late night and early daytime hours. The prices will vary and you will be forced into complying or choose to pay extra for your home energy use during peak hours.
Two cities, here in the USA, that are leading the way in the smart grid movement are Austin, Texas and Boulder, Colorado. Austin started their smart grid deployment in 2003 and Boulder finished the first phase of their operation in 2008. According to their websites, http://www.austinenergy.com, Austin Energy has installed over 417,000 smart meters, and, Excel Energy in Boulder, http://smartgridcity.xcelenergy.com/ , has installed over 20,000 smart meters.
Some key features to the Smart Grid include:
- Utilizes wireless and fiber technology
- Web-based system management
- Consumer control over how much energy you use and when
- Remote turn on and turn off capability
- Quicker outage restoration
- Online meter reads and billing information
- Physical on-premises meter read visits no longer required
- Online charging control over hybrid and electric vehicles
- Control over smart appliances and electronics
In California, Pacific Gas & Electric, which serves over 15 million people, has installed over 8.7 million smart meters. In Houston, Texas, Centerpoint Energy has installed nearly 1.5 million smart meters.