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Smart Metering: For Energy Efficiency in the Domestic Sector

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Smart Meters

Difference between Smart Meters & Conventional Meters

The basic difference between conventional meters and smart meters is that conventional meters provide one-way of communication, whereas smart meters provide two-way communication. For instance, in order to carry out a meter reading using a conventional meter, the meter reader needs to physically visit the customer premise and take the reading. This reading will be sent to the utility company for billing. But in case of smart meters, this can be done automatically. The system operator will create a meter read request from the utility company office.

The smart meter sends the meter reading as per the request to the utility company. This avoids manual intervention during meter reading and provides more accurate, real-time data to the company.

Difference between Conventional and Smart meter

Read more about Smart Metering – List of Top Smart Energy Meter Manufacturers

Smart Meter’s Capabilities

Smart metering generally involves the installation of an intelligent meter at residential customers and the regular reading, processing and feedback of consumption data to the customer. A “smart” meter has the following capabilities:

  1. Real-time or near-time registration of electricity use and possibly electricity generated locally (e.g., in case of photovoltaic cells).
  2. Offering the possibility to read the meter both locally and remotely (on demand).
  3. Interconnection to premise-based networks and devices (e.g., distributed generation).
  4. The ability to read other, on-premise or nearby commodity meters (e.g., gas, water).
  5. Usually, a smart meter is considered for registry of electricity and gas use, but also water consumption registration is a possibility.

Schematic overview of a typical smart meter configuration


The ‘intelligence’ of the meter is incorporated in the electricity meter. It has three basic functions:

i) Measure the electricity used (or generated),

ii) Remotely switch the customer off and

iii) Remotely control the maximum electricity consumption.

The electricity meter communicates by means of a modem. An important characteristic is the communication infrastructure used by the smart meter for this communication. Amongst the possibilities are Power Line Carrier, (PLC, using the existing electricity grid); a wireless modem (GSM or GPRS) or an existing permanent internet connection (ADSL). An interface connects the smart meter to home appliances or a home display. Appliances can be controlled directly and the display can be used to show (historic) energy data and energy cost. In this example a gas meter is coupled to the electricity meters and borrows the “intelligence” and communication facilities of the electricity meter.

Smart Meters Feasibility

Technologically, there are no obstacles for the introduction of smart metering. The Italian case (roll out of approximately 30 million smart meters at residential customers) and numerous demonstration projects in other countries show that the technology (smart meter, infrastructure, data processing) is mature and can be implemented on a large scale. A smart meter is a logical successor of the mechanical electricity meter, just as the pick-up, the dial phone and the typewriter are replaced with digital, more intelligent alternatives.

Smart Metering is often referred to as automated meter reading (AMR), or in the case of realtime, two-way communications, as advanced metering infrastructure (AMI).

Benefits of Smart Energy Meters

The benefits of a smart meter can impact both electricity provider and the consumer. In addition, the use of a smart meter also has a direct impact on environment protection. The following points outline the benefits from the consumers and electricity companies‘ perspective and its impact on the environment:

From the Consumers’ Perspective

  • Consumers have greater control over their energy consumption as they provide the ability to measure their energy usage in real-time or based on hourly increments.
  • Consumers can select different pricing plans based on time-based rates and have the option to lower their consumption based on peak periods set by the utilities. This can give consumers significant savings on their monthly bills.
  • Users can further increase their energy savings by changing their energy consumption habits based on their understanding as to what smart meters are telling them about their usage in real-time. Consumers can shut down appliances during peak periods or pre-program appliances and devices to operate only at predetermined time frames.

From the Electricity Companies’ Perspective

  • The automated meter reading capabilities of smart meters allow for automatic and remote readings on consumers’ energy consumption thereby removing the need for agents to go from house to house to read meters.
  • A smart meter can be controlled remotely from the central information system proving utilities better management of the electric network.
  • Faults and outages can be detected in real-time allowing for quick response times for intervention either by remote or by quick dispatch. Utilities can also monitor network irregularities and performance of transformers to detect and minimize losses.
  • Consumers are billed based on actual consumption and not just based on averages and estimates. Fraud can also be easily detected through the smart network.

Impact on the Environment

  •  With a smart meter, consumers can use energy efficiently and thus lower their energy demands.
  • With lesser demands, there will be no need to build additional power plants that will generate greenhouse gases.
  • During peak demand hours, utilities are sometimes forced to use peaker plants, which produce higher carbon emissions. With the use of a smart meter, consumers can reduce their demand during peak hours, thus eliminating the need for peaker plants.

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Rishi Srivastava

Rishi is a student of MBA in Power Management from Centre of Advance Management in Power Studies ,NPTI. He has over 3 years of experience in IT-consulting domain. His areas of interest include Renewable Energy, CDM, Demand- side management and rural electrification through off-grid/micro-grid.

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