Wednesday, April 16, 2008

PG&E Replacing Old Electric Meters With Smart Meters

Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) is retrofitting homes with Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) Technology at a cost of US$1.7 billion. By the end of 2011, it will replace old meters with approximately 10.3 million new meters at nearly 6 million homes and businesses across PG&E's 70,000-sq mile service area. It also will deploy a communications network and back-end IT systems capable of collecting and processing hourly electric and daily gas usage data.

The SmartMeter program will enable PG&E to provide its customers with demand-response rate options to reduce peak energy use by encouraging customers to shift demand to off-peak periods. Because electricity purchased in peak periods is more expensive, this load shift will reduce power procurement costs. It also will provide a variety of improvements in customer service, such as more accurate billing, and will eliminate the need for customers to unlock their gates and tie up their dogs on days meter readers are scheduled to visit.

The state of California will benefit from additional levers to influence energy demand and from reduced environmental impacts. Lower peak demand reduces the need either to use older, less-efficient (and dirtier) power plants or to build additional generation facilities. This will help reduce the environmental impact of providing California consumers electric service — a clear benefit to the state.

The utility will benefit from reduced operational costs and greater efficiencies. In fact these savings will cover roughly 90% of the cost to deploy and operate the system over its 20-year life. More than half of these savings result from the elimination of manual meter-reading activities. Other primary areas for operational savings include billing, remote connect disconnect, metering operations and outage restoration. The SmartMeter program will pay for itself over the projected life of the system; benefits will exceed costs.

SmartMeter technology with solid-state meters would also facilitate communications with the programmable communicating thermostat technology being promoted and codified by the California Energy Commission through California's Title 24 building code.

Transmission & Distribution World. Tim Vahlstrom:.

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