Smart Meters In New Zealand  

Posted by Big Gav in ,

I'm seeing stories about rollouts of smart meters somewhere or other just about every day now (step 1 towards the smart grid).

Computerworld reports the Kiwis are now getting with the program - Aucklanders to get smart electricity meters

Over 300,000 Auckland-based Mercury Energy customers will receive a new smart meter for their electricity services through Mercury's metering services provider, Metrix.

Smart meters record usage in 30 minute periods, meaning that information for bills will always be up to date. This information can also be used by customers to manage their power consumption.

The meters, which are now being installed, can also be read remotely, replacing physical visits by meter readers each month. The meters use adaptive radio mesh technology to conduct the remote readings, a system first developed for military applications.

“The use of smart meters enables the development of more flexible electricity pricing plan options that can be tailored to customers’ needs – much like mobile phone plans today," says Mercury Energy’s general manager, John Foote. "We are only at the start of the journey but this could have the same impact on the retail electricity sector that electronic transaction technology did in the banking industry in the late 1980s and early 1990s.”

WorldChanging also has a post on smart meters - Old homes get smart.
The Times profiles two British seaside towns on the forefront of the low-tech energy efficiency revolution. Take, for example, Hove residents Brenda and Jeffrey Marchant, owners of a typical Victorian house. The Marchants were always energy-thrifty, but instant feedback is a uniquely motivating force.
"Turn on a computer and the device — a type of so-called smart meter — goes from 300 watts to 400 watts. Turn off a light and it goes from 299 to 215. At 500, the meter is set to sound an alarm.

'I’ve become like one of Pavlov’s dogs,” Mrs. Marchant said. “Every time it bleeps I think I’m going to take one of those pans off the stove. I’d do anything to make it stop. It helps you change your habits.'"

Homeowners are insulating attics and swapping out windows as part of an ambitious effort to drop the city’s emissions 20% by 2012. None of the efficiency measures are particularly exotic, and most pay for themselves. The city provides grants for some of the more expensive items, such as solar water heaters.

The U.S., of course, lags, but already technology providers are working on more sophisticated forms of smart meter that can adjust power consumption automatically by controlling appliances. When woven together into a smart grid, these systems can help reduce peak power demand. (In March 2008, Worldchanging covered Boulder, Colo.'s plans for the first U.S. smart grid)

Demand management is good for the environment, and also good for utilities. Southern California Edison plans to distribute smart meters to all 5.3 million customers by 2012. Such a program would have been financially infeasible just a few years ago. With prices on the technology dropping, the utility now expects to at least break even.

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