A recent report from Pike Research estimates that by 2010 there will be more than 250 million smart meters installed worldwide. That number indicates that the future of energy efficiency will be determined to a large extent by measuring and managing power usage. An ancillary benefit will be ability to empower the consumers by supplying them with the information and the ability to reduce their energy usage. And of course, when it comes distributed energy, these smart meters will be the all important middleman between the promised “smart grid” and onsite power systems.
What, exactly, is a smart meter? A basic automatic meter reading system involves the automatic collection of data that is then transferred to a central database for analysis. But what we’re talking about here is Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI). AMI takes data management to another level by including the measurement, collection, and analysis of meter-acquired data. AMI includes not only hardware, but the master data management (MDM) software and customer interface that makes use of all the statistics and information collected, including usage and billing. Another AMI benefit is the ability to craft sophisticated demand-response solutions.
So how smart are these meters? They’ve been designed to match demand to generating capacity, and this ability also allows for balancing locally generated energy with grid-supplied power. Ultimate efficiency will depend not just on the abilities of the grid, but also on the behavior of the end user, and—as mentioned above—these smart meters will make it possible for users to micromanage their use.
So what do you think? Can these smart meters deliver? Is enough consideration being given to onsite power as plans for the smart grid roll out? In my blog, “Ready or Not,” I asked “can the smart grid and onsite power coexist?” www.distributedenergy.com/january-february-2009/etrm-software-editorial.aspx But, should the question really be “how can the smart grid exist without distributed energy?”