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Pros and Cons of Smart Electric Meters
Pros and Cons of Smart Electric Meters
Smart electric meters are electronic devices that track and record the use of electricity in customers' homes. Electric utility companies have been replacing the outdated analog meters (that are read manually each month) with the new, high-tech digital smart meter versions. These smart meters automatically capture information about electricity consumption and then transmit it back to the electric company.
Smart meters can provide quick, accurate measurements of electricity use while eliminating the need for estimated monthly bills or home visits from meter readers. While this seems like the smart thing to do, there are concerns that smart meters are collecting unnecessary information about hourly electricity use. This collection of data could, potentially, be a violation of users' privacy.
Here's a look at the benefits and challenges that smart meters present to electric utilities, customers, and the environment:
Advantages for Electric Companies
Eliminates manual monthly meter readings
Monitors the electric system much more quickly
Makes it possible to use power resources more efficiently
Provides real-time data that is useful for balancing electric loads while reducing power outages (i.e., blackouts)
Enables dynamic pricing, which raises or lowers the cost of electricity based on demand
Avoids the capital expense of building new power plants
Helps to optimize income with existing resources
Advantages for Users of Electricity
After the electric company has fully installed its advanced metering infrastructure, smart meters offer the following benefits to electricity customers:
Far greater (and more detailed) feedback regarding energy use
Enable consumers to adjust their habits in order to lower electricity bills
Reduces the number of blackouts and system-wide electricity failures
Advantages for the Environment
Prevents the need for new power plants that produce greenhouse gases that substantially creates pollution that creates health risks
Helps curb existing greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants
Reduces pollution created by vehicles driven by meter readers
The Disadvantages of Smart Meters are Short Term
All technology has its benefits and drawbacks. While smart meters accomplish a lot, they also present challenges to electric utilities as well as customers. However, the vast majority of these disadvantages are short term, and currently, there are no disadvantages for the environment.
Disadvantages for the Electric Companies
Smart meters present the following challenges, and costs, to electric companies
The cost in terms of personnel training and equipment development and production to transition to a new technology and new set of processes
Managing negative public reaction and acquiring customer acceptance of the new meters
Making a long-term financial commitment to the new metering technology and the related software involved
Managing and storing vast quantities of the metering data collected
Ensuring the security and privacy of metering data
Disadvantages of Smart Meters for Consumers
It's hard to verify that the new meter is accurate
There's no way to protect the privacy of the personal data collected
There is an additional fee for the installation of the new meter
Other disadvantages include the reality that smart meters put human meter readers out of work, which hurts the economy. To date, hundreds of individuals have lost their jobs and most won't find new ones based on their esoteric skill-set. In addition, while it was anticipated that smart meters would save consumers money, consumers rarely check their meters because the system is so complex. Consequently, customers are unable to make energy consumption changes.
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