Turning the Tables with Smart Meters

My last article described the benefits of smart meters, which primarily provided savings to electric power generators and distributors. The objective of reducing costs to consumers through time-of-use conservation has not been realized. About half of the electric bill consists of a “global adjustment” for a constantly fluctuating market price of electricity. Yet the two-way metering by smart meters will allow consumers to eventually turn the tables.

As the centralized model of energy generation and distribution begins to disintegrate, consumers will have an opportunity to achieve real savings through the use of renewable technologies. Households will find it easier to install wind and/or solar arrays as costs drop. More people will generate some or all of their electricity requirements themselves. With net metering, surplus power can be fed back to the grid and the smart meter then reduces electric charges proportionately to as low as zero.

The bottom line is that “renewable” energy doesn’t require fuel (coal, gas, uranium) for power generation. Smart cities, and corporations are not blind to the savings:

“Increasing the use of renewable energy has become a targeted goal of almost half of Fortune 500 companies, and with good reason. According to a new report, more than half of Fortune 100 companies collectively saved $1.1 billion in energy costs by rolling out renewable energy programs.”
(Verizon to become solar power leader, Computerworld, August 26, 2014)

The top 10 US corporations using renewables also happen to be big energy consumers: Lockheed Martin, Starbucks, Apple, Staples, Wal-Mart, Google, Whole Foods, Microsoft, Kohls, and Intel.

A transition among the rest of us without deep pockets is not that far off. Solar costs continue to drop and a new low-profile wind turbine for residential rooftop use has entered the market in Europe. It has a starting wind speed of 3 mph and can generate a continuous 2 kW (peak 2.7 kW) from one unit.

The trend will accelerate with more technological innovation – new energy storage technology and adoption of electric cars. Electric cars are expected to create a large, dynamic, energy storage pool when they are parked and plugged in. One report suggests that savings to power distribution grids will increase in relation to the number of electric vehicles in service. Global electric vehicle production was projected to increase by 67% in 2014. About 80 million electric and hybrid vehicles are expected to be in use globally in 2015.

Here in Innisfil, many farms have received financial incentives to install solar panels, and some perceptive local companies and residents have recognized the benefit of solar. But many rooftops here remain as prospective latent power sources for the businesses and residences below them. You’re not being encouraged to innovate in this way because electric utilities can’t afford to maintain their grid network if consumers abandon the use of it. But that will change when technology enables an electric transportation system and efficient storage of electric energy.