Smart Meter

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What is a Smart Meter?

The original purpose of smart meter is to dealing with the inconvenient of meter reading and electricity theft.  Before smart meter came out, meter readers have to take risks to go door to door to collect the data on traditional analog meters.  This method, however, is time-consuming and costly for utility.  Moreover, utilities cannot immediately take any action to electricity theft.  On the other hand, the accuracy of power usage is customers’ concern.  Some controversial issues between customers and utilities may result from meter readers’ mistakes. Therefore, smart meter can solve above problems.  

Smart Meter

Photo courtesy: emileglorieux.blogspot.tw Retrieved Jan 4, 2015 from http://emileglorieux.blogspot.tw/2011/04/smart-grid-report-2.html

A smart meter can digitally send meter readings to your energy supplier via low-power radio frequencies, which enables two-way communication between the meter and the central system and helps you to track your energy use.  It provides you with an easy-to-read summary of your activity.  Knowing your usage can help you make timely adjustments,which can save energy and lower your bills.

Your utility can also gather data form remote reporting, so it has better manage in energyusage.  For example, smart meter can help utilities detect power outages more quickly;ultimately reducing the time to restore power.  It also makes it easier to turn off the servicewhen it is not needed.

The pioneer of installing household smart meter is Italy.  Power Company, Enel in Italy started to install smart meters to put an end to electricity theft in the late 1990s.  Their meters can detect electricity theft location and turn power off immediately, and they can also turn power on and off as customers requested.  Their meters can display the usage of power and adapt to the best price plan for customers to save money.

How smart meters work

Photo courtesy: tongapower.to/NewsRoom Retrieved Jan 4, 2015 from http://www.tongapower.to/NewsRoom/SmartMeteringTrials.aspx

The meter records your electricity use on an hourly basis.  This information is encrypted and stored securely within the meter.  The meter sends this information from meter to meter and then to a “collector”.  These communications take just seconds a day.  Collectors send the aggregated and encrypted information back to utility company.

 Antennas inside a Smart Meter

Photo courtesy: An Investigation of Radiofrequency Fields Associated with the Itron Smart Meter Retrieved Jan 4, 2015 from http://heartland.org/sites/default/files/sites/all/m odules/custom/heartland_migration/files/pdfs/29676.pdf page 34

Antennas are key components in smart meter. Without them, any signal cannotbe transmit.Take Itron’ smart meter of as example, two separate transmitters arecontained in the end-point meters.  The wireless mesh network can be referred to as an RF LAN (radio frequency local area network).  The Itron RF LAN operates inthe 902-928 MHz provides data communications among the various end-point meters.A separate transmitter that operates in the 2.4 GHz frequency range (2405MHz to 2483 MHz)allowing customers, for example, to control certain electric appliances or systems within the home. (An Investigation of Radiofrequency Fields Associated with the Itron Smart Meter page 34)                                      

Benefits of Smart Meters

  • Provides customers with greater control over their electricity use when being coupled with time-based ​rates, which can increase the range of different pricing plans and give the customer more choice in managing their electricity consumption and bills.

  • Allows customers to know how to optimize their electricity consumption and reduce their bills.In the near future, it may be possible for a customer to receive automatic alerts (via emails or text messages), which notifies them of when the electricity consumption exceeds a pre-determined threshold.

  • Helps the environment by reducing the need of building power plants and avoiding using older, less efficient power plants as customers lower their electric demand.

  • Provides faster outage detection and restoration and enables less disruption to a customer’s home or business.

Smart meter in the United States

Photo courtesy: washingtonpost.com Retrieved Jan 4, 2015 from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/energy-environment/wp/2015/01/29/americans-are-this-close-to-finally-understanding-their-electricity-bills/

Utilities around the U.S. are cranking out smart meters.  PG &E installed 5.4 million smart meters in Northern and Central California before 2012.  SCE completed five million installations of smart meter in Southern California before 2013.  A report by the Institute for Electric Efficiency stated that as of May 2012, almost one-third of households had a smart meter.  The installations continued to chug along with one-half of homes likely to have the meters by 2015.

Los Angeles is going to implement a demand response program in household.  It aims to reduce peak electrical loads, allowing power companies don’t have to build new power plants.  The program specialized “User behavior", hoping that can be analyzed by science.  Then, government can develop a strategy to encourage people to save power.

Smart meter in Europe


Photo courtesy: greentechmedia.com Retrieved Jan 4, 2015 from http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/100-million-smart meters-to-be-installed-in-europe-by-2016-but-are-end-user

A report by Berg Insight estimated the growth rate of smart meter in Europe would increase 17.9% from 2009 to 2015; up to 1001.4 million units installed around the world.  At the same time, growth rate of smart grid would be as upto 31.1%.  In 2015, 30.025 billion smart meters were scheduled to be installed in household, which meant 1/3 smart meters around the world were installed in Europe.  Around 15.8 billion euros will be invested to install 110 million smart meters in Europe by 2017.

Italy completed 36 million smart meter installations in 2011.  Utilities in Denmarkstarted to installed smart meter from 2004.  Netherlands finished installing 7 millionhousehold smart meters in 2013. France plans to deploy 35 million by 2020; Spain plans to deploy 13 million by 2018, while the UK will kick-start efforts in 2015 to cover30 million properties over five years.

Smart meter innovates our lives

Smart meter is an important first step for the smart grid.  The smart gird is made up of new technologies and equipment to control and manage energy transmission from utilities to costumers.  It is a more efficient way of providing energy which can reduce the waste of energy and carbon emissions.  It’ll better match supply and demand and has the potential to solve lots of energy problems.  Smart meters and the smart grid open the door to some real innovations in the way we live.  For example, you can set your dishwasher to work when electricity is the cheapest.  Or we can use solar and wind energy when it's plentiful.  We can protect our earth by using green energy.  Perhaps, this technology can help us to overcome energy shortage caused by natural disaster in the future. 









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