When will smart meters prove their worth?
- Jul 27, 2022 9:47 pm GMT
A couple weeks ago, after coming across an industry report that predicted the worldwide smart meter data management industry was expected to reach $3.2 billion by 2028, I started to think about the current state of smart meters. Since the gadgets first burst onto the scene in the late 2000’s and early 2010’s, they’ve heralded as miracle devices that would transform the entire industry. See the below quotes:
“Smart meters are a necessary step if our electricity grid is going to accommodate distributed storage (residential batteries like the Tesla power wall). They also offer endless opportunities for apps and other data-driven efficiency strategies that we haven’t dreamed of yet. There’s also a reduction in fossil fuel use when meter readers don’t have to drive to homes anymore.” — A letter written by Amy Musser stating the benefits of smart meters.
“By reviewing real-time data, customers can make decisions that help them save money. ‘“For instance, consumers can monitor times where it is more cost efficient to run appliances like dishwashers and clothes dryers, and set timers for these appliances to operate when electricity is cheapest to use,”’ Pennachio says. ‘“Similarly, connected thermostats can be programmed to function most optimally with electricity consumption, and determine whether the HVAC unit or simply the fan is needed to cool the home or circulate air.”’ — Terri Williams at chooseenergy.com.
Basically, the promise has been that the gadgets would allow the customers to take near complete control over their home’s energy consumption by outfitting them with real time analytics. The promise, however, has been quite different than the experiences many homeowners have had with their smart meters. Unfortunatly, Their houses still come off as pretty dang dumb.
This problem has been pherhaps best covered in the United Kingdom, where a centralized smart meter rollout is almost over but customers are yet to reap many rewards from the technology. The initiative began in earnest a few years ago and has moved at a very quick pace. As of last June, there were 25.2 million smart meters in homes, small businesses, and parts of the public sector in Great Britain. I couldn’t find up to date stats, but it’s safe to assume many more have been deployed since.
The centralized nature of the smart meter rollout has made it easier for national media outlets and research centers to provide comprehensive coverage on the issue, something that would be much more complicated here in the U.S. While the smart meters haven’t proven controversial in the same way as vaccines, for example, they’ve still been a general disappointment across the pond. The vast majority of articles and studies on the topic point to the devices’ ineffectiveness.
One particular study from Keene University sticks out in my mind. Here’s how it was summed up on the University website last year:
“Keele University has recently released the findings of a study they conducted on England’s smart meter rollout. The research team found that the public’s awareness of energy efficiency strategies are not much better than when the rollout began, about a decade ago. The study also revealed that its participants, although not unconcerned with the environment, largely believed their own energy consumption habits were unlikely to make a difference in the fight against climate change.
“Professor Fan said this study contributes to the ongoing debate about the effectiveness of smart meters and in-home energy displays, adding that little appears to have changed in the perception and experience of energy feedback in the decade since the programme was launched.”’
Even more recently, many reports have come out of smart meters that have to be read manually. Here’s an example of one such article.
New technologies often deliver significantly later than their early proponents promise. I remember my grandfather, who was born in 1911, telling me about how much more reliable horses were than cars when he was a boy. Horses, much like film cameras, have since turned into nothing more than nostalgic novelties. When will be able to say the same of dumb meters?
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