In the world of electric cooperatives, smart meters could be true game changers.
For decades, the old, gray utility box with the protruding glass display was the only way to tell how much electricity a home or business used. That system, which utilizes a spinning disc to measure power consumption for billing purposes, was invented in 1888. While it was easy to see that the faster the wheel turned, the more energy you were using, there wasn’t any way to precisely assess what the rate of spin meant or even identify which devices were the biggest users of power.
Clearly, the old technology could use some innovation.
In the utility industry, a “smart meter” is shorthand for Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI). AMI devices gather an enormous amount of data that help both cooperatives and consumers understand power consumption in precise detail.
AMI data allow your co-op to manage the delivery of electricity in a way that eliminates waste and helps all members save money. Smart meters also allow, for the first time, two-way communication between your home’s electrical systems and the cooperative. Our engineers can use the system to monitor power use, discover problems and send commands to make the grid operate more efficiently.
As home energy-management technologies grow in popularity, smart meters will work hand in glove with high-tech thermostats, smart appliances and mobile apps to allow homeowners control over nearly every electrical system in the house. Imagine turning off appliances during peak hours and adjusting temperature settings in your home.
Funny, isn’t it, how power use spikes at 4 p.m. when the kids get home and the refrigerator door opens 20 times, every light in the house goes on, the microwave is popping popcorn, the oven is making pizza and both TVs are in use? (Too bad there’s no app for automatically controlling teenagers!)
If there is one overarching trend in the game changers we’ve covered so far—the leaps in technology that include smart meters and new and better methods of energy storage—it’s conservation.
New technologies and innovative business models can make the creation and distribution of electricity more efficient, safe, reliable and environmentally responsible. The investment in game changers has the potential to pay dividends in the form of savings for all consumers today and a brighter future for our children tomorrow.
South Carolina’s not-for-profit electric cooperatives are at the forefront of these issues, and we take enormous pride in embracing innovations that help us better serve our members. As we move into an energy future that’s more dynamic and technical than it’s ever been, you can rest assured that you have a friend in the utility business whose first, last and only purpose is to look out for you.
Game changers – Technology may change the way we power our homes, businesses, churches and farms, but your local electric cooperative is always looking out for you.
Game changers, part 2 – Learn how efficient energy-storage systems will change everything we know about the power grid.