Smart meters

Smart meters are digital devices that collect energy-use data and – unlike traditonal meters – transmit and receive data, too.

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Meters that measure gas and electric usage at homes and businesses are the basic components of any power grid. Traditional electromechanical meters use gears and dials, much like the mileage odometer on a car, to measure how much energy is consumed over a given period of time, typically a monthlong billing cycle.

Traditional meters have limitations. While they can keep track of cumulative energy consumption, they don't have the capacity to store data on a daily or hourly basis.

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Smart meters, in contrast, use embedded software that records electric use by the hour and transmits the data to a nearby data collector. The data is which then relayed directly to the utility through a secure wireless network. Smart meters have the potential to give consumers access to up-to-the-hour data on their electricity consumption.  Once they see how they are using energy, consumers can take action to reduce their energy bill costs. 

Smart Grid

Smart meters will be an important part of the Smart Grid.  Demand for electricity is growing faster than the supply infrastructure. At the same time, the conversion to a digital economy is increasing the demand for high quality power.

The need to reduce peak demand and improve power quality requires an enhanced distribution grid which can both heal itself and provide two-way communication between the utility and the end-user. Many companies are working to develop the technology needed to implement this vision of a Smart Grid. (smartmeters.com)

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The nation’s first functioning electricity smart grid began operating in Boulder, Colorado September 9, 2009. The core of the project, through Xcel Energy, is the ‘broadband over power line’ system that enables “meters” and “sensors” to instantaneously send data back to Xcel’s operations center. The information is flowing from 27 distribution feeds, eight safety “switches” and 4,192 “transformers.”

The next step will be to collect and share information with about 25,000 homes and businesses that have “smart meters.” The system will allow Xcel to manage “voltage,” limit “blackouts,” and identify failing equipment, (and allow) homeowners to figure out when and how they are consuming energy daily. (The Denver Post, 9/9/09)

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