EIA: Nearly half of electricity customers have smart meters

Smart metering in the United States may be pinging near the point of no return, according to new federal statistics.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration reported Wednesday that installations of smart meters nationwide have doubled since 2010. By the end of 2016, the EIA reported, electric utilities had installed about 71 million advanced metering infrastructure meters, covering about 47 percent of the nation’s 150 million electricity customers.

One-way meter to utility communication was more prevalent until 2013, but two-way AMI devices have been gaining ground since then, based on data collected in the EIA’s annual electric utility survey.

Washington D.C. has the highest smart-meter penetration at 97 percent, followed closely by Nevada at 96 percent. Other states at 81 percent or higher include Oklahoma, California, Georgia, Maine and Michigan, among others.

Texas had the busiest year in 2016 installing smart meters on more than 200,000 customer accounts. A handful of states have less than 20 percent AMI penetration, including Louisiana, New Mexico and Iowa, among others.

Automated meter reading (AMR), or one-way communication meters, rose from about 30 million customers in 2007 to slightly less than 50 million a decade later. AMI rollout, meanwhile, expanded dramatically from nearly zero 10 years ago to about 70 million smart meters at last count.

Residential customers accounted for about 57 million of the smart meters in 2015, while the commercial and industrial sectors total 7.3 million and 300,000, respectively, according to the EIA annual report.

Standard, or non-AMR and non-AMI meters, stood at nearly 38.5 million in 2015, about 430,000 less than the previous year.

Despite this growth, the U.S. still falls behind other nations when it comes to AMI rollout. Navigant Research reported earlier this year that China led with 68 percent of tracked installations.

Last year, Navigant said that North American smart meter rollouts had plateaued, buoyed only by installations involving utilities such as ConEdison and Hawaiian Electric.

The Smart Grid Investment Grant program, part of the Obama-era recovery plan, helped push AMI growth from 2009 to 2012. Since then, however, the pace of rollout has slowed.

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