Tuesday, March 8, 2011

How Smart Is The Smart Meter?

How Smart Is Your Meter?
Ever wondered, what a smart meter's full range of capabilities are? What do you know about your smart meter?

Whilst most householders in Australia have heard of smart meters, there seems to be  little understanding by the householder, of what the smart meter can do, for both the householder and the electricity supply provider.

To gain an insight into what a successful installation of smart meters can do, we will use the major Italian electricity provider, Enel, as an example.

Enel, during 2000 to 2005, installed smart meters to its entire customer base of 27 million households.

Smart meters are fully electronic, and very smart. They come with integrated bi-directional communications, advanced power measurement and management capabilities, an integrated software-controllable disconnect switch, and are further, solid-state by design.

The meters are able to communicate over low voltage power lines, using a  standards based power line technology, from Echelon Corporation. This communication, is sent to Echelon data concentrators, further switching to internet protocol, before being sent to, Enel's enterprise servers.

Advanced remote features of the smart meter include:


  • Turning a customer's power on or off.
  • Reading the electricity usage from the meter.
  • Detecting a service outage.
  • Detecting unauthorised use of electricity.
  • Changing the maximum amount of electricity, that a customer can use.
  • Changing the meter's billing plan, from credit to prepay.
  • Changing the tariffs.

Concerns have been raised about low income and vulnerable consumers, not benefiting from the new 'time of use' tariffs. In Victoria for example, the Government halted the roll out of smart meters, because they were concerned new tariffs, would add to the hardship of customers already struggling, to afford their energy bills. Whilst smart meters, offer many potential benefits, there are concerns that many of the possible consumer benefits, will not be realised.

Questions have been raised about privacy issues, associated with smart meters. And there are many aspects of this 'smart metering' technology that remain questionable. Here in Australia, there seems to be a growing number of householders with billing errors, where bills have risen dramatically without the increase being due to the householder's usage increasing.

Could the methodology itself be a short sighted solution? Could the concept of peak hours change, as an increasing amount of householders use their appliances at night, creating a new peak time?

Further criticism, of the smart metering system, has raised issues of poor, or lacking system security. Such as the possibility of a virus, spreading throughout the system, creating an energy crisis, started by a foreign entity.

As with most new technologies, that are designed and installed correctly, great positive outcomes are achievable. It will always pay in the long run, to be fully aware of all possible variable outcomes, before bringing a new technology to the general population.

To learn about optional independent monitoring and analysis of your electricity usage and / or solar pv system's output, visit our ONLINE ELECTRICITY MONITORING page, where we make the task of getting your data online, very easy.

This blog post and podcast brought to you by Aussie Home Energy, a major player in the HOME ELECTRICITY REDUCTION SERVICE industry in Australia.

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