“Eventually, each house will have a smart meter that will communicate back to the utility. There are all kinds of services that can then be created from that relationship.”
Gary Smith, Nevada Energy Smart Technologies Program Director
You may not see the meter reader often, but he or she stops by about once a month to read your meter and report your energy use back to the utility company. In today’s world of instant communication, this manual method is far from efficient.
In February 2009, President Obama addressed the issue as he signed the $787 billion stimulus bill, which allocates a hefty chunk of funds to upgrade our nation’s energy system.
“Today, the electricity we use is carried along a grid of lines and wires that dates back to Thomas Edison—a grid that can’t support the demands of clean energy,” Obama said, during a speech delivered at the bill-signing ceremony. “This means we’re using 19th– and 20th-century technologies to battle 21st-century problems like climate change and energy security.
“It also means that places like North Dakota can produce a lot of wind energy, but can’t deliver it to communities that want it, leading to a gap between how much clean energy we are using and how much we could be using,” he added. “The investment we are making today will create a newer, smarter electric grid that will allow for the broader use of alternative energy.”
Staff at Nevada Energy already has begun to prepare for the shift to “smart grid” technology, which will require a whole new infrastructure to support two-way communication between each meter and the utility company.
“Eventually, each house will have a smart meter that will communicate back to the utility,” said Gary Smith, Nevada Energy Smart Technologies Program Director. “There are all kinds of services that can then be created from that relationship.”
For instance, an in-home or Internet display could tell consumers exactly how they use energy—when they use it , what appliances use the most and so on. People also could be informed when power prices hit peaks, and reduce their use of energy at those times.
“When we’re peaking as a utility, we have to go to the market to buy power, and power prices are high,” Smith said. “With a smart system, we can let customers know when rates rise and provideincentives for them to reduce their power usage, which means we don’t have to build as many power plants.”
According to a study conducted by the US Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, consumers involve din a pilot smart meter system saved 10 percent on their power bills and cut their power use by 15 percent during peak hours.
Nevada Energy plans to build a massive back-office system in 2010, to support the avalanche of data that will be streaming in every 15 minutes from smart meters throughout the state.
“In 2011, we’ll start running pretty significant pilot programs, where we’ll put these meters out to test whether customer behavior really does change under these different types of programs,” Smith said. “Right now we’re working to see if there’s a funding opportunity for Nevada through the federal stimulus package.”
In the meantime, Nevada Energy does provide an online program that allows each customer to analyze his or her energy use in a fairly detailed manner. To access it, log on to www.nvenergy.com