Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Smart Energy Meters - Overrated?

Well, PG&E installed smart meters on our building, although we still don't have the promised computer access to monitor our usage.

However, I fail to see how more detailed information will help most of us be better energy consumers, especially since the general goal seems to be to reduce usage during the day and time-shift it to the evening.

Consider. If everybody in your home is elsewhere during the day (office, school, whatever), you are unlikely to use much energy during the day which means, logically, that your heaviest energy usage will be in the evening and night.

Conversely, if one or more of you spend most of the day at home, there is a limit to what you can do to reduce consumption. In hot weather, you will need to run fans or a/c and probably won't do a lot of cooking. During the winter, you will need heat during the day as well as at night. Most people at home probably watch TV, listen to the radio or music, use a computer, etc. The degree to which those at home during the day can reduce or limit their energy usage is, I suspect, limited.

I can see that smart meters might identify the most energy-intensive equipment but I suspect the surprises will be few. Most of us know that a/c uses a lot of energy and, if we have dishwashers, washing machines & dryers that they will use more energy than the radio.

So I can see that the meters might affect usage at the margins, and maybe that's enough, but promises of significantly lower electric costs are unlikely to be met.

And, as some people have realized, the effect on personal privacy and safety could be high since anybody monitoring usage by apartment or house would have a pretty good idea not only what the people inside are doing minute by minute but whether or not the dwelling is occupied and when it is most likely not to be occupied.

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