The Smart Meter Avalanche

One compilation suggests that automated electricity meters are to be installed in more than half the U.S. states, including most of the most populous ones

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The Edison Electric Institute, hosting a press briefing today on the smart grid, distributed an enumeration of smart grid rollouts which indicated that 21 states have plans to install smart meters for more than half the metered population, while another eight have plans for less than half the population. Those 29 states include most of the country’s largest and most populous except for Missouri, New York, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Washington (state).

According to Edison’s Institute for Electric Efficiency, many of the country’s largest electricity distribution companies have plans to install millions of meters in the next years, with deployments to be complete between 2012 and 2015. These include the Southern Company (4.3 million), AEP (5 million), Baltimore Gas & Electric (2 million), and Michigan’s DTE (4 million).   In Texas, CenterPoint Houston expects to install 2 million by 2014, and Oncor 3 million by 2012. Southern California Edison is shooting for full deployment of 5.3 million meters by 2012, and Pacific Gas & Electric of 5.1 million. To date, by general consensus, PG&E's program is the largest and most advanced in the United States.

In total, according to the EEI compilation, nearly 60 million smart meters will be installed by 2015.

EEI’s media briefing was devoted mainly to the implications of smart metering for customers and distributors, in terms of energy conservation, monetary savings, improved reliability, and more efficient, less expensive maintenance. The representative of one energy company said it stands to make or save, over 15 years, $2.5 billion on a smart meter investment of $500 million. But there are big implications, too, for companies that specialize in processing and communicating data. This is because the data requirements associated with smart metering--not to mention all the other digital elements associated with the smart grid vision--will be gargantuan.

According to one calculation circulating this week, installation of 100 million smart meters in the United States might generate 100 petabytes per year of data that need to be transmitted, archived, and manipulated. That estimate,  by Jack Dahany of SmartGridNews.com, is based on a current estimated per-meter data rate of 400 MB per year, which Dahany multiplied by 2.5 to allow for higher future sampling rates and additional smart grid data requirements. By comparison, Google handles 20 PB of data daily, observes Katie Fehrenbacher of Earth2Tech.com, who publicized Dahany's calculation.   

 

   

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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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