Utilities Are Leveraging Digital Smart Meters

Electric utilities continue upgrading their customers’ analog electric meters with digital “smart” meters, according to a new IEE report, “Utility-Scale Smart Meter Deployments”. “Smart meters enable two-way power and information flows between the utility and the customer,” says 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.”

IEE, an Institute of The Edison Foundation focused on innovation and efficiency in electricity, found 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.

Along with tracking the number of smart meter installations, the new report also highlights specific electric utility initiatives that leverage smart meter and other digital grid technologies. For example, Oklahoma Gas & Electric Company is working with ABB to monitor, manage, and optimize its distribution network to reduce energy losses and peak demand. By doing so, OG&E estimates that it will cut its electricity load by 75 megawatts (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,” Wood adds. “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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