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Smart meters and grids – the downside

IEEE, the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, has tracked its members' opinions on smart meters to reduce energy consumption. The institute posed the question, "Would you be willing to help pay for the smart grid in your...


IEEE, the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, has tracked its members’ opinions on smart meters to reduce energy consumption. The institute posed the question, “Would you be willing to help pay for the smart grid in your community? Do the proposed benefits of smart meters outweigh the costs?”

Given their vocation, one would expect that IEEE members would be all in favour of high-tech smart grids, but not so. Several respondents were suspicious about the end result.

One warned that there would be a price to pay: “I would be leery of any move by power companies to promote energy conservation. Back in the 1980s, Public Service of New Hampshire was so successful at getting its customers to conserve energy that it later went to the Public Utilities Commission and obtained a rate increase to offset lost revenues due to reduced electricity consumption. So in the end, consumers did not reduce their bills. If the power companies want a smart grid, let them pay for it.”

Another wrote from California:  “I would not want to pay for it unless there were more customer involvement and tangible benefits. We cannot even obtain real-time feedback now from our smart meter – only via a clumsy Web site and with a whole day of delay. Where I live, any opportunities were blown by rolling the meters out too early. I can assure you that there is zero willingness in my neighborhood to pay even one dime extra, despite the fact that a lot of engineers live here.”

Others were concerned about privacy issues, suggesting that information about household usage patterns would probably end up being given to government agencies.

The responses to the question were recorded in IEEE’s online newsletter, The Institute, on March 7, 2011.