When you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it; but when you cannot measure it, when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge of it is of a meager and unsatisfactory kind; it may be the beginning of knowledge, but you have scarcely, in your thoughts, advanced it to the stage of science.
Sir William Thompson, Lord Kelvin (1824-1907)
Although the uptake of greater energy efficiency technologies in many cities has, in part, reduced the continuing rapid rate of growth in electricity demand, little has yet been done by utilities to update the infrastructure or to introduce new business incentives that offer efficiency of service and quality of supply to the customers. The traditional electricity meter is a good example that, in many buildings, has not been changed for decades. The electricity supplier usually owns the meter and, being a monopoly, has often discouraged most consumers (except perhaps very large customers) from having any market leverage. However, new metering technology is now available at acceptable prices to transform this historic model and, in addition, the internet has enabled society to benefit from a new service-based market business model, including pay-as-you-go systems that can help reduce power being wasted (Chambers, 2006).
Meters that display and record real-time energy consumption data are becoming more commonly installed. Known as advanced metering infrastructure (AMI), a typical system that incorporates advanced smart-meters and software can measure, collect and analyse electricity demand patterns and provide information through some form of communication on request or to a pre-determined schedule. The network between the measurement devices and utility business systems enables customers, suppliers, utility companies and service providers to gain information collected and distributed by the system. These businesses can then participate in the market or provide demand response solutions, products and services. The system encourages a change in energy usage from normal consumption patterns by providing greater information to customers than they had access to previously. They can now respond to price changes or to other incentives designed to encourage lower energy usage use at times of peak-demand periods, or during periods of low operational system reliability. Real time smart meters can therefore add value to electricity markets for all stakeholders, compared with the conventional business model of simply maximising the quantity of electricity sold for the benefit of the utility.
A good design of smart meter should also be able to control and verify a number of separate circuits, typically those dedicated to large load devices such as air conditioners, refrigeration stores, motor drives, water pumps, electric vehicle charging and water heaters. The energy user can then select the optimum time-of-use based on varying tariffs and thus enable utilities to undertake load demand response actions and compensate customers for doing so. In addition, intelligent thermostats can communicate to allow utilities and/or customers to automatically adjust heating/cooling systems based on a balance between comfort, cost and power system requirements including peak load shaving.
Information from smart meters can be made available to the energy company or the consumer at the meter itself or at a short distance from it. The information is continually exchanged with an intelligent grid operation control centre that gives the utility control over the web of electricity generation technologies to meet the ever-changing demand. In turn, the utilities can share information across the entire system, thereby enabling suitable actions to result in order to maintain system stability.22
Smart metering can be used for both electricity and natural gas. The fact that data is provided directly to the utility obviates the need for manual meter reading. With smart meters, the consumer can pay differentiated rates depending on the time of day or the season. Smart meters also allow accurate monitoring of excess electricity from micro-generation that is sold to the grid (net metering) and can facilitate pre-payment or pay-as-you-go plans. Studies have shown that smart meters can produce overall energy savings of 5 to 15% (Darby, 2006).
While smart meters already exist in the market, there is nevertheless, on-going development. For example, at the United States Pacific Northwest National Laboratory,23 a wireless system for electricity end-use metering permits near real-time measurement, tracking, and reporting for hundreds of different appliances and heavy electrical equipment (IEA, 2008e). Easy to install and use, the system provides cost-effective solutions for facility managers interested in proactive energy consumption management.
Existing standard electricity meters have a long lifespan and it is often not cost-effective to replace them early, given their initial cost. In some countries, where deregulation allows for fairly quick switching between energy companies by customers, the ownership and replacement of company-specific meters can cause major problems. Continual development means that to date, there has been poor standardisation of the technology and the lack of any regulatory requirement for smart meters is a concern in many cities. The barriers to greater deployment can be overcome by regulations, certification and subsidies for installation. This is the case in the Netherlands, where the government has amended the Electricity Act 1998 to improve the operation of the market by installing smart meters in each of the 7 million households and small businesses by 2014 (unless a householder rejects having the meter installed on privacy grounds) (Spencer-Jones, 2007). While the four grid operators own the meters and are responsible
22. www.gridpoint.com a"
23. http://gridwise.pnl.gov/ g for their installation, the energy suppliers are responsible for managing the data. The meters can remotely read energy consumption and any export to the grid; can be remotely connected and disconnected; can detect and meter power quality; have the ability for on-line interaction between customers and suppliers; and have the ability to give a real time response to controllers of the electricity systems.
Smart metering will provide a communications channel to energy consumers that will break down the traditional monopoly status of electricity suppliers and improve delivery of services. To explain the benefits of smart metering, the energy saving opportunities, and their interaction with intelligent grids of the future, information and awareness campaigns will be important. Successful outcomes will largely depend on the attitudes of the customers to energy usage.
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