Market forces and fickle policies have delayed the smart meter revolution.
Bob Heile, Ph.D, is Chair of the IEEE 802.15 Working Group on Wireless Personal Area Networks and was co-chair of the IEEE 2030 Task Force 3 on Smart Grid Communications. He is also is Chairman Emeritus and Chief Technologist for the ZigBee Alliance.
The power industry in the United States today has installed about 40 million residential interval meters, thanks in part to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) passed by Congress in 2009, which basically split the cost with host utilities.
Though the potential value of those meters and the advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) of which they are a part is well understood, that value remains largely unrealized. Meanwhile, developing a positive business case in the post-stimulus era for a new AMI project is difficult, though not impossible.
Further, the unrealized value of installed meters and a positive business case for new AMI projects are often tangled up in discussions of related technology options. These are all separate if tangentially related issues that could benefit from being disentangled and examined each in turn.
Smart Meter Stimulus
The ARRA-funded metering projects have, of course, delivered significant value. AMI provides utilities with improved outage detection, end-of-line sensors for voltage control, and remote connection and disconnection of customer accounts. These benefits are essentially efficiencies and, as such, they comprise only part of AMI’s value.