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More Smart Meter Pushback

British review raises questions about cost of national rollout and claimed benefits

1 min read
More Smart Meter Pushback

The United Kingdom's National Audit Office is predicting that the cost of delivering smart meters to 50 million British homes by 2020 will be considerably higher than the government projects and that it will be harder than expected to induce the desired changes in consumer behavior.

"For the money spent to provide value, we all have to change the way we behave. It is not clear how the department will stimulate this behavior change. And as technology changes, the department will have to be properly flexible to respond with up-to-date technology for the smart meters. These uncertainties can drive up costs more than planned," commented Margaret Hopf, a member of Parliament who chairs the parliamentary Committee of Public Accounts.

Separately, British citizens were also found to be broadly skeptical about smart metering costs and benefits, according to a survey conducted by The Economist magazine for the technology provider T-Systems, a subsidiary of Deutsche Telekom that has offices in California and India.

The promise of smart metering is that it will help utilities make the grid more reliable and help customers save electricity and money. Hence the multiplicity of new products being offered by major suppliers like Landis+Gyr [photo above]. Yet adverse reactions to smart metering have turned out to be surprisingly widespread in terms of both geography and concerns. For example: The Dutch have worried about home security as utilities gather more detailed information on domestic energy use, Californians about radiation from wireless communications devices in meters, and Texans about unexpected increases in electricity bills.

Inasmuch as smart metering is but the first phase of global efforts to integrate advanced computing and communications into traditional power grids, the broad pushback it's encountered indicates that the smart grid may have a tough row to hoe.

The Conversation (0)
This photograph shows a car with the words “We Drive Solar” on the door, connected to a charging station. A windmill can be seen in the background.

The Dutch city of Utrecht is embracing vehicle-to-grid technology, an example of which is shown here—an EV connected to a bidirectional charger. The historic Rijn en Zon windmill provides a fitting background for this scene.

We Drive Solar

Hundreds of charging stations for electric vehicles dot Utrecht’s urban landscape in the Netherlands like little electric mushrooms. Unlike those you may have grown accustomed to seeing, many of these stations don’t just charge electric cars—they can also send power from vehicle batteries to the local utility grid for use by homes and businesses.

Debates over the feasibility and value of such vehicle-to-grid technology go back decades. Those arguments are not yet settled. But big automakers like Volkswagen, Nissan, and Hyundai have moved to produce the kinds of cars that can use such bidirectional chargers—alongside similar vehicle-to-home technology, whereby your car can power your house, say, during a blackout, as promoted by Ford with its new F-150 Lightning. Given the rapid uptake of electric vehicles, many people are thinking hard about how to make the best use of all that rolling battery power.

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