Well, the meter may be smarter, but me?

4 Jun 2012

A smart meter

People have been talking about “smart electrical grids” for awhile now.  I posted this earlier this year.  And, if the hype is to be believed, someday,  a 21st century grid will provide benefits like:

  • Reliability — by reducing the probability and consequences of widespread blackouts
  • Economics — by reducing the amount paid by consumers and creating new jobs
  • Efficiency — by reducing the cost to produce, deliver, and consume electricity
  • Environmental — by reducing emissions by enabling a larger penetration of renewables and improving efficiency of generation, delivery, and consumption
  • Security — by reducing the probability and consequences of manmade attacks and natural disasters; and
  • Safety — by reducing injuries and loss of life from grid-related events

This is what the DOE was projecting two years ago.  One of the first steps toward the smart grid is the so-called smart meter.  Little did I know that I had already received one of these gizmos until I spoke to someone at DTE recently.  DTE describes the smart meter here.  The main visible difference is that it is digital and does not have those spinning “odometer” type wheels.  I understand that DTE now is in constant radio contact with my meter, meaning no more meter readers (does this savings off-set their cost?) and automatic power-outage detection (although DTE still wants me to call their hotline when a summer storm knocks out our power).

At some point, I am supposed to get access to my energy usage information via the Internet “to better manage my energy costs.”   While that sounds nice, unless DTE is going to vary rates over time and tell me when the rates are lower so we can do our laundry then, I’m not sure knowing what my daily usage really does for me vs month-end statements.  At the end of the day, I still need to invest in more energy efficient appliances and use them more intelligently – no meter is going to remind my family to turn off the lights when we leave a room or not stand with the fridge open.  Sometimes more information doesn’t really change anything, as it is the human element that needs to get smarter.  I hope the folks at DTE will let me know how to use this new smart meter to be more environmentally and energy efficient because right now, I’m not sure.

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