Smart Meters, Smart Grids, and Smart Technologies

For those seeking to reduce not just costs but carbon footprint, the arrival of smart technologies, smart grids, and smart meters are a huge boon. What are they?

Smart grids

The smart grid has been described as less of a thing and more of a vision. It is a vision for a power delivery system that

1. provides power when and where it is needed;

2. can withstand – or, at the very least, quickly recover from – physical damage or even cyber attacks;

3. provides fair prices by adjusting according to the laws of supply and demand;

4. minimizes transmission and distribution losses;

5. helps customers to better manage their energy usage; and

6. enables the integration of intermittent sources of energy, thus helping reduce the environmental impact created when people are forced to depend on fossil fuel energy alone as a reliable energy source.

Fortunately, this is a vision that already exists, and one of its most basic elements is the smart meter.

Smart technologies

Smart technologies is the blanket term for innovations designed to make life better for humans not just in terms of convenience but also in terms of environmental preservation. Two of the primary ways these devices accomplish this are by helping energy users become more aware of how they are using energy and by helping the end users schedule their energy use at off-peak hours, for lower energy costs.

One reason why peak-hour energy use is discouraged is because, in order to fill the sudden spike of energy usage, “extra power plants have to be fired up, or power has to be imported, and those costs are high,” explained Dr. Guy Newsham, from the National Research Council Canada.

“Eventually, these costs are passed on to the consumer.”

Therefore, the goal is what experts call the “zero peak” establishment, which uses no energy from the grid during the peak-use times in their regions.

This can be accomplished by installing batteries, which can be charged during off-peak periods, so that the now-off-grid energy can be used by the office during peak times.

Other ways are to program some appliances – such as photocopiers or air conditioners, perhaps – to run only during off-peak hours.

Of course, the best technology for green businesses is that which uses no grid energy at all. This can be done with the installation of some of the highly efficient solar panels currently in the market, or through other forms of alternative energy that can be produced for the company’s own use.

Smart meters

Smart meters are electric meters – and sometimes also natural gas or water meters – that record real-time use of power at regular intervals, then report that data back to the central system, both for billing and survey purposes.

The benefits of this system for the consumer is, first, it puts an end to estimated bills, and second, with the detailed information on energy consumption, consumers can better identify when and where their energy costs are coming from and, from that information, find ways to use up less energy and produce less carbon emissions.