Question #1

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Q&A

Do smart meters help the environment?

Yes, a smart grid is a greener grid. Smart meters and intelligent grid can significantly benefit the environment by reducing consumption of fossil fuel resources, thereby reducing emission of greenhouse gases (GHG) and other air pollutants. Environmental benefits can be achieved in three ways:

  1. Reducing electricity consumption and increasing transmission and distribution efficiency
    Studies suggest that given the ability to monitor their energy use more frequently in greater detail, many consumers may begin turning off unneeded appliances, change to more efficient lighting, adjust thermostats and make other energy-saving changes.  If consumers conserve energy, less power may need to be produced. Reduced emissions from potentially decreased power generation could translate into better air quality.
  2. Reducing utility’s vehicular needs
    Smart meters will also reduce the consumption of resources and associated emission of greenhouse gases and other pollutants associated with performing basic utility services such as connections, disconnections, and meter readings, which can be conducted remotely for consumers with smart meters without sending out a truck. As of October 2010 for example, CenterPoint Energy has avoided over 300,000 "truck rolls" by completing service orders electronically.
  3. Promoting distributed and renewable energy production and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles
    Finally, smart grid will create a platform that will promote the development and deployment of technologies for increasing distributed generation (DG) and energy storage capacity, such as wind and solar generation, and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs). Smart meters measure surplus electricity generated as well as electricity delivered, eliminating the need for installation of expensive specialized DG metering. Distributed generation can help reduce the need for new fossil-fuel-generated capacity and therefore benefit the environment. The smart grid will also include technologies that facilitate the use of PHEVs, thereby reducing the consumer’s reliance on gasoline and diesel-fueled vehicles.
What are smart meters?

Smart meters, a common form of smart grid technology, are digital meters that replace the old analog meters used in homes to record electrical usage. Digital meters can transmit energy consumption information back to the utility on a much more frequent schedule than analog meters, which require a meter reader to transmit information.

Electric energy use will be recorded every hour at your home and every 15 minutes at your business. Natural gas information will be available on a daily basis. Smart meters will enable you to monitor your consumption more precisely so you can make more informed energy choices.

Will a smart meter give my utility control over how and when I use energy?

No. Actually, you control your usage, not the utility. Advanced metering gives you more control. Participating in residential energy management and other energy efficiency programs is completely optional. Customers who participate can use the information they receive to manage their energy usage day by day. Or, they can set preferences (select a maximum temperature for air conditioning, for instance) and let the system automatically make adjustments based on the cost or availability of energy. Either way, the customer is in complete control and will have the option to override signals or not participate in energy-efficiency programs at all.

The smart meter takes frequent readings of your energy usage, but it only measures the electricity used in your household, it does not control it. If you have opted in to a program such as a PeakRewards program, your smart meter will not change how this program operates. The utility will continue to cycle air conditioner compressors and hot water heaters on and off as needed during peak usage times, the same as when you first signed on to this program. In the future, the smart meters will enable utilities to remotely turn service on and off at customer premises. This feature will be used when customers move out of their current homes and start service elsewhere. This cost effective feature eliminates the need for a utility field visit when customers move or start service. The remote connect feature will also enable the utility to place customers back into service more expeditiously.​

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