Posts Tagged ‘smart meters’
» posted on Wednesday, September 15th, 2010 at 10:16 am by Woody Wilson viewed 251 times
By Heather Clancy | September 10, 2010, 7:26am PDT
With the continued backlash around smart meter projects (the latest is that smart meters might mess with your other gadgets at home!) it seemed relevant to point out two new progress reports on two different trials exploring the impact of household behavior in the face of more detailed information about energy efficiency.
OPOWER, a company that offers Home Energy Reports to consumers via a Web portal or via good old snail mail, reports that a Minnesota deployment of its service in conjunction with Minnesota-based utility Connexus has demonstrated a 2.1 percent reduction in residential energy consumption, which is a $1 million savings for Connexus customers.
The results are consistent with consumption patterns at deployments in more than 20 states, according to OPOWER. The average across all its programs is 3.5 percent reduction; OPOWER says it has verified more than $13 million in energy savings so far. What’s notable about the Minnesota effort, which has been going on for more than a year now, is that Minnesota typically has a milder climate where temperature fluctuations were less severe. I’ll note for perspective, though, that Minnesota also is known to be a relatively green state when it comes to policies and programs. Bruce Sayler, manager of regulatory affairs and conservation at Connexus, had this to say in the press release:
“The OPOWER energy efficiency program has been a bonafide success in helping our customers save money on their bills and helping Connexus meet it’s state-mandated energy conservation goals. Our customers have given us great feedback on Home Energy Reports, and it’s clear that they’re using them to make smarter decisions about their energy consumption.”
OPOWER updated its service back in May 2010. The updates to OPOWER 3.0 include a simplification of how data is presented, a new “Insight Dashboard” that analyzes usage and offers “actionable” insight that could be used to adjust behavior, support for dynamic pricing and rate information (if that’s something the utility offers). This is what Ogi Kavazovic, senior director of marketing and strategy at OPOWER, told me a couple of months ago: “OPOWER is providing the equivalent of one-third of the U.S. solar industry’s output in energy savings — simply by sending out an actionable set of data once a month to utility customers.”
Some data also is out this week from the PowerCentsDC project that was spearheaded by a non-profit organization called the Smart Meter Pilot Program (SMPPI) along with technology partner eMeter in Washington. The trial involved 900 randomly chosen Washington, D.C., residents from across the city. The participants were able to opt for different rate structures by using the smart thermostats that were provided. Like many of the smart meter projects across the United States, the participants were part of ongoing engagement outreach, receiving an in-home display of their savings along with a monthly report about their consumption habits. The project tested three different dynamic pricing models: Critical Peak Pricing, Critical Peak Rebate and Hourly Pricing.
The results of the PowerCentsDC program have inspired the D.C. Public Service to approve plans by utility company Pepco (which was part of the test) to proceed with a full deployment of smart meters throughout the Capitol city.
Overall, about 90 percent of the pilot participants were able to save money as a result of the program, according to eMeter and SMPPI. The report produced for the program is being studied by the White House as an example that might become part of the blueprint for smart grid
By Dana Hull email@example.com
Posted: 05/23/2010 12:12:00 PM PDT
Updated: 05/23/2010 06:55:51 PM PDT
If you are a PG&E customer, you either already have a so-called smart meter at your home or are in line to get one soon. PG&E has installed 5.6 million smart gas and electric meters so far and plans for all its 10 million customers to have them by 2012.
So what exactly makes a smart meter smart? Why are utilities across the country and around the world racing to install them? And what benefits are there for consumers?
PG&E says its SmartMeters will give consumers detailed information that will help them to more efficiently manage their energy use. But public reaction so far is largely negative, with many PG&E customers complaining of spikes in their bills. The consumer backlash now includes a small but vocal number of customers who don’t want the devices installed at their homes at all.
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.
Those meters have been in place for decades, and they have been remarkably reliable. But the old 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.
“Traditional meters cannot measure consumption in time buckets,” said Ahmad Faruqui, an expert on the smart grid and a consultant with the Brattle Group in San Francisco. “They measure at the beginning of the month and the end of the month, and the meter reader comes at the end of the month.”
Smart meters, in contrast, use embedded software that records electric use by the hour and transmits the data to a nearby data collector, which then relays the information directly to PG&E through a secure wireless network known as RF (radio frequency) mesh. Soon, customers will have access to up-to-the-hour data on their electricity consumption.
“This is not just a new type of chip,” said Brian Seal of EPRI, the Electric Power Research Institute, a nonprofit research think tank for the utility industry. “It’s a shift in the definition of what we expect a meter to do.”
Once smart meters are installed, utilities will be able to offer “time of use” pricing, which will charge consumers higher rates for energy used during peak hours — typically late afternoon and early evening — and lower rates during off-peak hours.
Several pilot tests within the utility industry have shown that many consumers change their behavior to avoid the higher peak prices. Advocates say that will reduce the load on the power grid, prevent blackouts, offset the need for additional power plants and lead to a much cleaner environment.
But consumer advocates warn that many people — including small business owners, the elderly, the disabled and families with small children — won’t realistically be able to curtail their peak usage and will be unfairly penalized with higher bills.
“We’re only hearing about problems,” said Mindy Spatt of the consumer advocacy group TURN. “We’re not hearing that meters are helping people save energy or save money on their bills. From the consumer end, there doesn’t appear to be a benefit right now.”
But Helen Burt, PG&E’s senior vice president and chief customer care officer, says customers ultimately will benefit.
“Smart meter technology is the indispensable cornerstone of the smart grid — which will empower customers and utilities to manage energy use more intelligently,” she told state legislators last month at a hearing.
But PG&E’s rollout of smart meters has been rocky. The flood of complaints from consumers who fear their smart meters caused spikes in their energy bills led state regulators to order an independent investigation into meter accuracy that is now under way.
Earlier this month, PG&E acknowledged that as many as 23,000 SmartMeter customers may have received inaccurate bills.
For consumers, the main promise of smart meters is simply more information. Most people pay their monthly power bill without fully understanding how many kilowatt-hours are burned up by their flat-screen TV or window air conditioner.
PG&E says customers who have smart meters can, after about two billing cycles, go online and see exactly how much gas and electricity they have used, right up to the previous day, and they can track their electricity use hour by hour.
And starting this summer, customers with smart meters can sign up for “Energy Alerts” that tell how much energy they’ve used during the billing period, much in the way consumers currently check to see if they’re about to run out of cell phone minutes. PG&E has a five-tiered rate structure, and the text message or phone alerts can warn people if they’re about to move into a higher tier.
Other smart meter features are still a few years off. One is the “Home Area Network,” which will allow remote control of appliances equipped with communication chips. Users could use their cell phone to program their dishwasher to run at an off-peak time, for example, or to tell their air conditioner to turn on before they arrive home on a scorching summer day.
Utilities say smart meters will also allow them to pinpoint power outages and restore power faster during storms. Much of this will be done remotely, without the need for technicians to visit the home.
Contact Dana Hull at 408-920-2706.
by Martin LaMonica
Consumers needs better operating instructions for the smart grid, a survey published on Wednesday shows.
A Boston Consulting Group study found that the majority of consumers surveyed are willing to tap into the information from smart meters to conserve energy. But utilities haven’t done a good enough job of enabling people to use their two-way meters constructively.
(Credit: PG&E) The survey of 1,700 U.S. consumers, which was done online last December, found a strong interest in lowering energy use. Seventy-five percent of respondents said they were interested in finding easy ways to save power and two-thirds said that getting a daily information would help them better manage their bills.
The idea behind applications such as Google’s PowerMeter or an in-home energy display is that more detailed information will help people find ways to curb energy use. Sixty-two percent of people said they would log onto an Internet site to check power consumption at least once a week, the Boston Consulting Group found.
Even though there’s been a lot of talk about the smart grid, consumers don’t appear familiar with smart meters or aren’t yet sure of the actual benefit from them. Sixty-six percent of the respondents to the survey said they would like more communication from utilities on smart meters and less than 30 percent can recall getting information beyond the monthly bill.
Smart meters deliver some direct benefits to utilities, such as automated meter reading, and can be useful for implementing time-of-day pricing. But the lack of customer education threatens to undermine the economic reason to invest in smart meters, Boston Consulting Group said.
“We estimate that from 20 to 30 percent of a utility’s customers will have to reduce their overall consumption or peak demand by 15 to 20 percent to make smart meters a winning proposition,” said Pattabi Seshadri, a consultant at the Boston Consulting Group’s energy practice, in a statement. “Falling short of that threshold will likely prevent the utility from delivering the necessary return on investment.”
Seshardi suggested that utilities should explore partnerships with other industries well versed in introducing new products and services to consumers.
Martin LaMonica is a senior writer for CNET’s Green Tech blog. He started at CNET News in 2002, covering IT and Web development. Before that, he was executive editor at IT publication InfoWorld. E-mail Martin
» posted on Saturday, May 8th, 2010 at 3:20 pm by Woody Wilson viewed 118 times
By Jennifer Hicks | May 7th, 2010
Want to reduce your energy bills but don’t know where to start or what to do? Brain-numbed by all you need to know to make the best choices?
The quest is over. Wattbot was designed with you in mind.
“Wattbot helps people save money on their energy,” says Wattbot’s co-founder and vice president of business development, Diane Loviglio. “We do that by giving personalized energy-saving recommendations so that all a user has to do is type in his or her street address and from that we already have lots of data, which you can edit as needed. Then, we provide personalized recommendations for what you can do to cut your energy costs.”
Wattbot is a residential electricity monitoring and feedback system that allows users to track their home energy use and offers tips to reduce consumption. The company’s current five-member team grows as is needed. The tool launched in beta last year and the public beta began in January, 2010. The company has received some angel funding.
Quick instructions for Wattbot use
The site is designed for visual rather than textual learners. It is void of easily-found instructions. But, the tool really does make all the try-and-fail, try-and-get it attempts at using the tool worth your time. Here are some essential steps to get you started:
- Enter your address on the home page. Unless you live in a densely populated West Coast area or some Eastern regions, you’ll likely see this: “Sorry, Wattbot is not yet available in your area.”
- Not to worry. Scroll down that same page and click on “create a sample Wattbot project,” or just use this address for step 1: 5 Timberline Dr, Poughkeepsie, NY.
- “Edit” will be your favorite word on the page that then crops up. Use the light blue icons to change the pre-populated data to suit your home and environment. It is here that all the personalized data is entered so that you get recommendations specific to you.
“Personalized data is really what drives people with action and we’re all about helping people take action to reduce their energy bills,” says Loviglio.
What can you get from Wattbot?
While some sites that tout energy efficiency offer the tired cliché “turn your thermostat down and put on a sweater,” Wattbot attempts to “simplify that problem and solution,” says Loviglio. “We know not everyone is an environmentalist; Wattbot is here to simplify your life and help you lower your bills.”
If you go though all the data input steps and really do make the sample project as close to your reality as possible, you might learn that—for your particular home—investing in a new Energy Star refrigerator really cost you money rather than save you—and that you might do better adding wall cavity insulation.
And, you learn the upfront costs, the anticipated savings and the rationale behind the recommendations. You also get a list of contractors and suppliers in your area to help make the recommendation a reality should you choose.
Providers associated with Wattbot
Loviglio says there are thousands of providers who have registered their services for free on the site, just as consumers do. There is a difference, though. Consumers are given a list of “best matching providers” for free when they get their energy-savings recommendations. If they choose one of the providers, they fill out a pop-up Web form which goes to Wattbot. Wattbot then charges the provider—who has been given a $500 credit by the company—between $20 and $200 to receive the information you provided as a lead.
“We don’t make money on product recommendations,” Loviglio points out. “We are unbiased in our recommendations.”
The technology behind the tool
The tech geniuses behind Wattbot have taken Amazon’s database and merged it with the appliance database from Energy Star. To that mix, they’ve added their own database of mid-price energy-saving products. They’ve merged in municipal, state and federal rebates and any incentive programs. They’ve developed complex algorithms that deal with climate, your site-specific data, energy prices and your usage characteristics. And, they update all this each day.
If you take the time to become familiar with the site and how it works, and the time to input your specific information, you really can get a personalized recommendation.
Wattbot’s future plans
Right now, Wattbot makes recommendations about solar hot water, solar electric, insulation, refrigerators and dishwashers. But, it plans to include additional household essentials.
It also plans to create its own financing arm so that if you are, say, interested in adding solar panels to your abode, you’ll be able to apply for financing from the company.