Report: Smart meters offer multiple benefits to utilities, customers

Electric utilities continue upgrading their customers’ analog electric meters with digital smart meters. As smart meters are installed at residential, commercial and other sites nationwide, utilities are seeing a variety of benefits that are passed on to the end user, according to a new IEE report.

“Smart meters enable two-way power and information flows between the utility and the customer,” said IEE executive director Lisa Wood. “Electric utilities are using the real-time information provided by smart meters and other investments in the digital grid to improve the efficiency and reliability of the electric system,” Wood added.

IEE, an Institute of The Edison Foundation focused on innovation and efficiency in electricity, found that smart meters were installed in more than 45 million (or nearly 40 percent of) U.S. households as of July 2013. This is up from about 36 million (or nearly 33 percent of) households in May 2012.

Smart meter installations also enable electric utilities to leverage other smart grid technologies. For example, Oklahoma Gas & Electric Co. (OG&E) is working with ABB to monitor, manage, and optimize its distribution network to reduce both energy losses and peak demand. By doing so, OG&E estimates that it will cut its electricity load by 75 MW by 2018.

In Delaware and Maryland, Pepco is offering its smart-meter customers a bill credit of $1.25 per kilowatt-hour if they reduce their electricity use during the utility’s peak demand periods. Pepco’s Peak Energy Savings program is expected to provide about 50 MW of demand response. This program is a win-win—customers can save money and the program will generate revenue for the utility from PJM.

In Nevada, NV Energy is working with BuildingIQ to move away from the traditional “cash for kilowatts” model to working with its customers to make long-lasting, financially sound and technology- driven changes in large commercial buildings—casinos, schools, hotels, and offices. NV Energy expects its mPowered for Commercial program to deliver 75 MW of savings by 2015.

“These investments are changing the way utilities manage the grid,” said Wood. “For example, following Superstorm Sandy and Hurricane Irene, utility smart grid investments provided valuable information that helped restore power to thousands of customers earlier than anticipated.”

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