The Angst of Installing Smart Meters in the US
Whenever we post an article related to smart meters, we inevitably get some angry comments from people who say they overcharge and are health hazards.
Apparently, there's fairly widespread concern about this and it's actually slowing down the effort among utilities to upgrade their networks.
Smart meters are the foundation for smart grid. Household (and business) energy use data streams in real time to local utilities, providing the information (and feedback) useful to planning and controlling energy use. Utilities can identify outages faster, give customers more choices in rates and even restore electricity through "self-healing" features. Since meters are read automatically, fewer trucks are needed.
Utilities have invested $15.4 billion to install them and another $13.4 billion will be spent through 2015, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance. About 27 million are installed as of September 2011 and 65 million - half of US homes - will have one by 2015, according to the Institute for Electric Efficiency.
In response to resistance by some customers, states like California, Maine and Vermont, allow people to opt-out. But they charge them for that. As you can imagine, most people are even angrier with that solution. Several utilities are holding off from installing them for now.
Utilities says the fees pay for sending human meter readers each month that record usage by hand.
50 local governments in California oppose smart meters, according to the group, Stop Smart Meters. Connecticut has postponed its decision on whether to participate in Northeast Utilities proposal to install 1.2 million smart meters.
Southern California Edison, the state's second-largest utility, says about 28,000 customers our of 4.9 million customers have asked to delay the program.
States seem to be leaning toward allowing customers to be charged if they refuse a smart meter because of the benefits they see in the smart grid: reducing power consumption during peak hours; reducing the need for new power plants; and reducing the potential for black-outs from capacity that can't keep up with urban growth, reports Bloomberg.
In California, utilities charge an upfront fee of $75 and $10 a month to keep their old meter, Greg Snapper, a PG&E spokesman, told Bloomberg. Over 90% of customers have a smart meter now, as a result of its $2.2 billion program to deploy at least 9.7 million of them, he said.
A state study found that smart meters are charging accurately, not over-charging. In fact, they were more accurate than tradtional meters, which could be behind peoples' perception that they're being charged more.
In 2011, the California Council on Science and Technology, a state-created technology advisory board, looked at a range of scientific studies and found they emit far less radio-frequency energy than microwaves or mobile phones.
Asia Moving Ahead
Many Asia Pacific nations view smart meters as the fundamental step in reducing carbon emissions and fostering a cleaner society, and Japan, Australia and China have some of the biggest penetration rates in the world, says Pike Research.
Last month, State Grid Corp. of China announced it would install over 300 million smart meters by the end of 2015, mostly using technology from the US and Taiwan.
A $100 billion will install 682-782 million units by 2020 as part of a $400 billion investment in transmission infrastructure across the country.