Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Installed SmartMeters - A Living Lab and Educational Tool

Now that smart meters capable of interval metering are being widely deployed in many utilities, we have an incredible opportunity to use them as an educational tool to build awareness of the potential for smart metering, explain clearly and concretely new rate options, and help consumers discover the relationship between various load types and cost.

For years we have been relying on small pilots to gather this kind of information.  Various pundits, the press, regulators and stakeholders have been postulating and pontificating on the impact to the consumer of new rate options that take advantage of interval metering sometimes based on these pilots - or more often just based on their own world view regardless of that pesky data.  Now in areas where smart meters have been rolled out, we can present to the consumer what their bill (and carbon impact) would have been if they were on several different available or proposed rates.  Data can be presented to the customer on how others like them are faring, which rate types are working for them.  It will be refreshing to see the discussion of innovative rates that reflect the actual cost of energy based on actual, indisputable data so we can get beyond this game of pretending the statistics captured from pilots are not reliable or don't apply to some group.

An installed smart meter plant is therefore a brand new living laboratory on consumer energy consumption patterns and behaviours.  This laboratory can also be used to evaluate the viability of new end consumer enabling technologies to take advantage of a rate structure, evaluate the rate structure itself, evaluate the ability of a consumer to change energy behaviours and if that behaviour change is temporary or long lasting - all without the consumer, utility, or the regulator taking any real financial or political risk.  Most cool.  My only fear is that some of the factions out there find a way to turn even this capability to capture unambiguous, deterministic knowledge into something evil and continue to promote the head buried in the sand approach.


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