You are familiar with electric meters located outside your house or apartment that measures the amount of electricity you use, measured in kilowatts per hour (Kwh).  You pay the utility company a certain amount for each Kwh used.  These traditional meters show just the total amount of energy consumed and generally are read only by the utility company, which has to come to your residence to read it and to determine what you owe.

Smart meters are an advanced device that measures how much is being consumed and when.  The meter feeds that information not only to the consumer inside their home, so they can see what and when they’re consuming, but also to the utility company so it can determine usage behavior of customers and when most energy is being used and can read your meter at their offices.  More energy is used in morning and especially the evening after school and work, less during the day and at night.  With the information provided by the smart meters, utilities can study this different usage at different times and charge accordingly, higher rates for peak periods, much as phone companies often do.  It’s classic feedback to the consumer and utility company.

With a smart meter, you can actually see the effect of using appliances and equipment as you use them — real-time or near-time information — and calculate how much that usage is costing you.  With this information, consumers can adjust their behavior and hopefully save money and contribute to less energy being used, with savings in greenhouse gas emissions.

Smart meters are most often used to measure electricity usage but they can also measure gas usage and a version may be used for assessing water charges.   Some meters allow for determining the amount of energy exported from a home to the national grid,at times when a wind turbine or solar panels may provide more energy than the household needs,so-called microgeneration.

Some further ideas to explore on Smart Metering:

Using your existing meter, presumably a dumb meter, try figuring out how much electricity you use each hour of the day.

Then try to figure out what appliances or particular usages account for the different rates of usage through the day.

Try this at your school, if you can get cooperation from teachers and managers.

Resources:

RoI Department of Communication, Energy and Natural Resources   www.dcenr.gov.ie/Press+Releases/Important+Milestone+in+National+Smart+Metering+Plan.htm

RoI Commission for Energy Regulation, responsible for testing use of smart meters in Republic of Ireland  at   www.cer.ie/

UK Department of Energy and Climate Change   www.decc.gov.uk/en/content/cms/what_we_do/consumers/smart_meters/smart_meters.aspx

www.smartmetering.eu/

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