Real time metering, now that’s smart

Smart meters slated for discussion at the COAG summit are technology that should have been rolled out 25 years ago. New meters that give real-time readings are smarter.



I read last week that the accelerated rollout of smart meters is on the table at the federal-state COAG summit (click here to read the news story).


Smart meters gauge electricity use every 30 minutes, unlike most existing meters that are read every three months. A friend who works for an energy retailer seems to think this is a fantastic idea. This new technology is considered to be smart because you can tailor your electricity use exploit cheaper tariffs.


What’s frightening for me is that in today’s climate change environment, we are rolling out technology that should have been installed 25 years ago and calling it smart.


Now a couple of weeks ago I went to a luncheon discussion some of the technologies that were being rolled out in Springfield, Queensland. Steve Outtrim, the entrepreneur behind Sausage Software, is heading a team installing a whole heap of cool gadgets into homes there. The thing that interested me most was the smart meters they are using.


Their smart meters are networked, meaning you can look at your electricity costs in real time (exactly how much is that grunty new air conditioner costing you?). It also means the electricity sales companies can be sent your consumption in 30-second segments (rather than 30-minute segments). Guess what? No meterman tromping through your property, and no dodgy electricity bills. And the meter can be remotely turned off the moment you finish your tenancy, so you don’t get hit by bills that belong to other parties.


Smart meters are also able to monitor how much electricity you could potentially “sell back to the grid” if you had devices such as windmills on your property.


It also appears that there is a company in Europe that is trialling using smart meters paired with smart controls on devices in office blocks.


Effectively when the power grid approaches peak load, their control systems turn down power use in the office blocks by putting some pre-agreed systems, such as air-conditioners, into a lower electricity use setting (such as only running air-conditioning half the time and letting the temperature go up by two degrees).


Their customers get a cut of the savings made, by delivering megawatts of what is effectively green, cheap power into the grid. No need to build new power stations!


That’s what I call smart metering. And any company can access this type of technology if they are interested in managing their own power usage and costs.


George Loam writes: Thanks Brendan for pointing out they should be called dumb metres. Now we need governments to act smart. Any suggestions on how? (Posted: 11 April 2007)


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