What do smart grid and smart meter mean?

Jenna Careri / October 3rd, 2016

Smart meters can help you save energy.

[Panumas Nikhomkhai]/Shutterstock

 

Much of the United States has legislation on file that implements the use of smart meters. If you’re a Texas resident or business owner, for example, you most likely have a smart meter, or advanced metering system, that monitors your electrical usage.

The Public Utility Commission of Texas began installing smart meters across different utilities starting back in 2008. These meters are installed at each home or business, replacing existing analog meters, and are capable of reporting back to the utility in real time (15-minute intervals) what your energy consumption is. With the large majority of Texas buildings having a smart meter on-site, this creates a smart grid, or a network of smart meters that can detect and react to changes.

What can a smart meter do?

In the past, utilities tracked energy consumption with analog electric meters that required someone to come out and inspect your usage every month. With a smart meter, this is performed remotely and digitally.

A smart meter can also report power outages instantly, which in turn provides the utility with information to get your home’s power back up and running in a timelier manner. Simply put, a smart meter allows two-way communication between a utility and its consumer.

Why should you care about a smart grid?

With smart meters installed throughout a utility’s service area, the utility is better suited to serve you and troubleshoot problems. Utilities can now monitor energy consumption in total, and reduce peak demand for electricity by ensuring enough energy is created a certain times. A smart grid also reduces costs for utilities because they’ll be better equipped in responding to demand, which in turn reduces costs for the retailer that purchases electricity at wholesale. If retailers get a better deal, energy consumers could get a better supply rate.

The idea of a smart grid is an ongoing one that will require additional technological advances and additions such as smart thermostats and updated infrastructure. However, a more connected way of communicating  consumption data is already here and making both consumers and utilities better understand the way we use energy. Over time, the smart grid should be able to intelligently predict when to produce more or less electricity at different times, and better transmit and deliver the electricity that is generated.

One benefit of the smart grid right now is that consumers are able to get new electricity supply plans faster than ever – many even the same day. You can learn more about whether you have a smart meter by contacting your utility, or if you’d like more information about new energy supply plans, by contacting a retailer.

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