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Smart Meters Can Be Beneficial but Aren’t a Panacea

There’s been a lot of discussion about the pros and cons of smart meters. On one hand, there are those that see this technology as intrusive and expensive with an unproven value. While others embrace the ongoing utility industry transformation and realize how smart meters can play a key role. Based on our work with utilities across North America as an independent consulting and systems integration company, we understand the following:

  1. Smart meters can provide important functionality and benefits for utilities and their customers. These include managing peak demand and energy consumption, improving outage management, and driving operational efficiency. The impact of smart meters and other modern grid technologies are real. To underscore this, organizations such as the U.S. Department of Energy (here) and the Edison Foundation (here) have published results that are publicly available.
  2. Smart meters and the information they provide must be effectively integrated with other utility and customer systems to realize their full potential. For example, smart filtering ensures that power outage notifications are accurate and useful. Our recent industry survey showed that currently, smart meters are being underutilized for outage and restoration notification in some cases.
  3. Customer engagement is essential. There are many myths about smart meters. It is important to engage and collaborate with customers very early in the process as well as during and after the installation!
  4. Monitor, Measure and Publish. Utilities need to monitor and measure the impacts of new technology such as smart meters, and publish the results. A great deal of modern grid technology is still in the early stages, and there are still lessons to be learned regarding effective use to improve performance and realize benefits.

In conclusion, smart meters are following the same growth pattern as most technologies (i.e., introduction, enhancements, acceptance and mass adoption). As with all technologies, smart meters must be properly installed and integrated with detailed training, change management and communication for utility personnel and customers. Remember, the meters are not inherently smart, it’s the people and process which enable the functionality to deliver the promise of enhanced efficiencies.

Blog Post by Forrest Small, VP of Grid Reliability, BRIDGE Energy Group

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