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Smart Meters in WV?

July 13, 2013

The WV Consumer Advocate Division just submitted discovery requests to FirstEnergy in the WV PSC billing investigation case.  The questions are good and should yield a lot of important information that First Energy did not provide in response to the PSC’s initial questions.

But the CAD’s list of questions did not mention an important step that FirstEnergy could take to improve billing in WV – smart meters.  Not only would smart meters increase the direct reading of meters by FirstEnergy, but these meters could also be connected directly to homeowners’ computer systems to give us instant records of our electrical use.

Smart meters would also give West Virginians the technological ability to enjoy time of use electric rates so we could change our usage to lower our electric bills.

There was no mention of smart meters in the PSC’s initial questions, nor were they mentioned in the CAD’s first set of discovery questions.

According to the US Dept. of Energy, by the end of 2011, almost 38,000,000 smart meters were installed in the US.  The number is no doubt much higher now.  Not one of those meters was in WV.  Why not?

Isn’t this billing case a good time to ask that question?

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. Frank Young permalink
    July 13, 2013 1:28 pm

    What do you mean by a “smart meter”, Bill? I have an APCO digital read meter. The meter reader person reads it by going by slowly on the public road, with a hand-held gadget of some kind being held out the truck window. My meter is maybe 150 feet from the public roadway. It’s been several years since we’ve had a “meter reader” person in our yard or driveway.

    • July 13, 2013 1:41 pm

      Good question, Frank. There are lots of variations that end up being called “smart meters.” Your meter emits a radio signal that theoretically could be received by a unit in your home which would be read by software in your computer to give you real time tracking of electricity use in your home. That is definitely a smart meter. Other smart meter systems are connected directly to the Internet and feed information continuously to the power company, so that meter readers aren’t needed at all. In either case, this would be a big improvement on FirstEnergy’s current mess in WV.

      Real time pricing is one thing that standard “dumb” meters, even digital ones, can’t do. Real time pricing involves the creation of rates that apply throughout the day in periods of peak and non-peak usage on the power company system. In periods of high demand, market rates that power companies pay for electricity rise on the spot markets. By the same token, when demand is low, power companies are willing to unload electricity at lower prices. Now, with a single electric rates throughout the day, electricity users don’t have to choice to shift their electricity usage to off peak hours to reduce their electric bills. In this way, with smart meters, we all get smarter.

  2. July 13, 2013 9:56 pm

    Corn Belt Energy Cooperative has had smart meters for years. Yes, I can see yesterday’s usage by the hour and how my 5 year old loves to turn every light on in the house. 6-9 p.m. is my high usage hours. of course, looking at the big picture these are lower usage hours for commercial accounts.

    You can also tell to the hour when the diesel block heater is plugged in during the winter.

    Unfortunately, the cooperative is not regulated and does not offer net metering to make solar more attractive. The cooperative is also not bound to the state’s RPS. You get the good with the bad in an energy cooperative.

  3. July 14, 2013 7:31 am

    As it’s been fished out during this case, FirstEnergy companies in WV have a certain kind of meter on some accounts that can be read from a distance (just like Frank’s). They use these at (some!) places with impediments to the meter (the much maligned “bad dog”). But there’s nothing smart about these meters. Yes, they give off a weak signal that can be read from a vehicle. But the customer doesn’t know they have this kind of meter and apparently they don’t look any different. And they can’t do anything special except be read from a distance. I don’t think that’s a real “smart” meter like the kind Scott has.

    No matter though, because FirstEnergy is having the same effect on its customers by requiring everyone to do their own meter reading and reporting, and then the company sends out outrageous bills. Ordinary people are now paying much more attention to their meter, their bill, and their usage, simply out of self-defense.

    • July 14, 2013 9:41 am

      A number of companies are now making receivers to pick up radio signals from meters and connect to home computers and networks. Some companies that have installed smart meters emphasize the new control and information that these meters provide to rate payers.

      The other important thing about smart meters is that they are the first step in building microgrid infrastructure. The combined metering and communication functions at the point of power consumption are essential to microgrid development.

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