smart meter

When a Smart Meter Isn't Very Smart

smart meter 

Smart meter. Photo courtesy of

Recent deployments of smart meters in California and Texas have been met with protests and probes and has left me wondering why this is happening. The meters are supposed to be smart, right?

They're 'smart' because they were engineered to help energy users conserve and become more efficient based on the feedback the meters provided. The government bought into smart meter technology in a big way—state and federal lawmakers passed laws requiring the meters with the goal of helping the nation strengthen its energy independence and maybe save some money.

I imagine (I don't want to assume) that power providers such as Oncor, PG&E, and SDG&E required smart meter vendors to test the devices for accuracy, especially against mechanical meters. What isn't so clear is that they may have forgotten to share this information with end users before deployment…

Consider how long residents have been using mechanical meters and how they have come to rely on these for measuring their energy use, regardless of whether that device provided accurate information. You can't just erase that mindset and expect people to embrace the new technology. Not when you're talking about their money.

If independent testing finds that smart meters are indeed 'smart' and the higher energy bills were caused by ill-timed rate hikes and extreme weather, then energy users will—begrudgingly—accept the results. It seems to me that a different tactic would have served customer relations goals better.

I'm curious: Has your community power provider installed smart meters? How did they fare on the customer relations meter?

Posted by L.K. Williams, EPonline on Mar 10, 2010