Does owning the meter make you smarter?
The whole smart meter movement has unearthed some questionable thinking while exposing some real motives. It looks like the B2G industry has suffered yet another setback as the concept of the smart grid and its essential connectivity piece smart metering sinks into the political mire, led by lobbyists who have had central control of our utility companies for the last 100 years. It is clear that it is only a setback as smart metering coupled with the smart grid is a necessity to move forward in our uncertain energy future.
We now understand that what most utility companies were calling smart metering was a one-way dumb connection to their cash register, funded by the people. We question its smartness in the evolving open connected information model world. We had all imagined meters for the people with open information and two-way interactions. This was not to be, and it appears the job of dinosaur tipping in the politics of the electrical utility industry is far from done. It seems that the utility industry and its lobbyists have seized this opportunity to fund the replacement of their aging meters—a normal cost of doing business—by convincing folks that somehow their closed meters, financed by public funds, will lead to a smart grid. As if this concept does not make any sense in itself, they have exclusively focused their windfall on the residential markets—the smallest part of the energy pie—because buildings do not vote.
So the question remains: “Does owning the meters make you smarter?” Answer: Only if you do smart things with them. As you see by the above rant, we are now spending billions of dollars without a plan. If we own the smart meter or collection of sub meters we no longer need to deal with other people’s politics. We can decide if we wish to open up energy information to all; we can feed energy information to an energy dashboard in the lobby; we can bring on and monitor the performance of renewables; run a micro grid generation behind the wall. Our options are unlimited and unrestricted, driven only by what is right for the building. You would not run your car without a gas gauge. Why would you run a building without dynamic energy reporting? In fact, car fuel gauges have gotten very sophisticated, including: instant consumption readings; projections; histories because they can and at a very low cost. Why not have all this plus more at a building level, with monthly tank full costs that greatly exceeds our car?
I see a movement to better metering at a building level—the first step in creating the necessary changes. If we are to achieve improved energy efficiencies we must be able to measure it. To understand the value of continuous commissioning we must measure it. All of the changes we are able to make at a building level need to be validated. Information is power; information that has been freed can be used for many purposes and its power is greatly increased.
What else can we do with our new smart meters? We can provide much better information than the utility can as to the amount of energy we are using because for the most part they have 20- to 30-year-old meters connected to oversized current transformers based on the total power requirements for the complex, not actual, usage. New smart meters provide higher accuracy and amazing information such as harmonic analysis.
Do not be surprised if your installation of new smart meters on your side of the wall causes the utility to replace their meters on their side of the wall.
Now that we have the utilities’ attention we can start meaningful dialog while we demonstrate to them how we can shift loads and generally what a B2G relationship could provide. Although utilities are very political, there is a real side at a local level to keep running with available distribution equipment, and any ideas that avoids them increasing sub-station size or distribution are still of interest.
If all this is not of interest to the local utility, it is possible that a well-documented energy profile will be of interest to an energy aggregator to add to his stable. If we are to go shopping for the best way to buy our power, we had better know how much we use and how controllable it is. What we have achieved in owning our own smart meters is control of our future and its options.
Smart metering and sub-metering can be added to most buildings for relatively low cost and almost immediately. It is an investment that will keep paying for itself over and over, and even when the smart grid does become a reality it will be a second source of opinion—when the utility will not share their information, you can.
Some building owners have been seduced by the concept that the utility is going to pay for smart meters, and this has prevented them from investing in their own smart meters. It is clear that whatever the utility company calls a smart meter will be limited by their imagination and motives and will be less useful than owning your own accounting device for the millions of utility dollars you spend.
Use our site search to read our many articles on smart metering and how to implement. Leverage the smartness in your own smart meters unrestricted by other’s cluttered thoughts and motives of what they think a smart meter may be. Yes, owning the meters does make you smarter!
Ken Sinclair is the Publisher/Owner of AutomatedBuildings.com.