Uncertainties about smart metering goals are hindering efforts to standardize communications protocols and feature sets. While vendors battle over standards, utilities and policy makers are moving...
What is an Advanced Meter?
The technology behind demand-side response.
Across the country, policy-makers are working with both federal and state legislators and regulators to define policies and laws that will impact how utilities do business in the coming years. One policy receiving much attention right now may require electric utilities to offer voluntary demand-response programs to their customers. Demand-response programs allow customers to voluntarily adjust their daily energy usage in a manner that is acceptable with their needs. Many utilities have already implemented demand-response programs and it is the success of these programs that is driving regulators and policy makers to make it standard practice on a national basis.
Before demand-response policies become laws and regulations, it might be wise to stop and take a look at what the policy makers and their lobbyists consider to be advanced or smart metering technology. If the national energy policy requires all utilities to offer demand-response programs to their customers in the future, then utilities do not want to be tied down to a particular metering technology to accomplish that goal.
Some of the ongoing discussion today in regards to defining demand-response program policy is centered on the technology that will enable utilities to create and implement demand-response programs. As expected, metering technology is at the center of these discussions and hence the terms "advanced meter" and "smart meter" were born to name the technology.
This article looks at the terminology used in state and federal policy planning documents to describe advanced or smart metering. Typically terms like solid- state, load profile, interval data, and communications are used to describe the meter technology needed to implement a demand-response program. Yet it is uncertain that these terms are understood by all, are being used consistently, or that the technology represented is the best technology available for demand-response programs.
Solid-State Meters: Your Grandfather's Technology
For many decades the electromechanical meter has been the ideal meter for use on residential accounts. Single-phase residential electromechanical meters are low cost, accurate, and have a long life. Even though communication modules can be installed on electromechanical meters, their functionality is limited to measuring kilowatt-hours. This limited functionality makes them unsuitable for demand-response programs.
Advancements in solid-state technology have enabled meter manufacturers to develop electronic meters that can perform many other functions in addition to measuring energy consumption. But to qualify as an advanced meter or smart meter, the solid-state meter must have additional functionality that makes it suitable for demand-response programs. At a minimum, a smart meter should be capable of measuring, recording, storing and reporting usage according to predetermined time criteria. The measurement, calculation, and storage of energy consumption over time should be done in the meter. This ensures there is an audit trail because the energy usage stored in the meter and reported through an automated meter reading system is used to bill the consumer.
While it is self-evident that an advanced meter should be capable of communicating, communications alone does not make a meter an advanced meter. Automated meter reading (AMR) systems that can communicate with meters and collect energy consumption