Smart meters key to a smart grid

Re: Smart meters invade privacy, Letters, Aug. 31, 2011.

Re: Smart meters invade privacy, Letters, Aug. 31, 2011.

To listen to the misinformation put forth from a small, but very vocal group of smart meter opponents, one might be inclined think the apocalypse will arrive shortly after the installation of these new meters.

In her letter to the editor, Lara Allsopp’s contends that “Itron Smart Meters invade people’s personal privacy … the meter’s record and report in five-minute intervals what specific electronic devices are on in your house.”

One part of that is true: today’s new meters do measure electricity consumption more frequently and accurately than the once-per-month meter reader of the past.

A growing number of utilities today use smart meters to measure consumption on a daily basis, some hourly (as in California and as BC Hydro plans to do), some every 15 minutes (Texas), and yes, the meters are capable of measuring consumption in five-minute increments.

However, these new meters do not allow the utility or anyone else to know what specific devices are used in a customers’ home or when.

They measure total energy consumption for the residence and transmit that data back to the utility, usually one to three times a day.

More importantly, why is measuring electricity usage more often important to all of us?

Think of electricity more fundamentally. It can’t be stored like natural gas, or propane or water. It must be generated in real time, kept in near-perfect balance with fluctuating demand, and delivered over an antiquated delivery system.

Yet at the same time, we, as consumers, continue to insist on low cost, reliable power, even as demand in the electronic age increases.

All these broadly desired outcomes: greater efficiency, improved reliability, integration of renewables and greater consumer awareness and control of energy use and costs, require a smarter grid, and smart meters are a fundamental building block of that smarter grid.

These meters provide the ability to measure energy demand more accurately and in a more timely manner. They provide the ability monitor voltage and power quality over the entire system, while also detecting outages and verifying when power is restored.

Most importantly, as energy costs continue to increase, they provide consumers with a source of information to manage power usage and costs more effectively.

Itron and the thousands of utilities we serve worldwide are committed to providing consumers with clear and accurate information about our products and systems to support an honest discussion of these issues that is based on facts.

Tim Wolf

Itron Inc.

Liberty Lake, Washington


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