Utility Smart Meters


| Reading time 2 minutes

If you catch one of the PG&E SmartMeter (tm) ads on TV, you might get excited by what they promise. The ads are slickly produced, with customers describing how cool it is to ‘See Your Power,’ receive ‘Energy Alerts’ and manage how much energy you use. The trouble is, the ads are ‘forward-looking’, and more than a little imaginative. PG&E is suggesting that they will provide consumers real-time data from the new meters. But, look closely at the your account online, and you’ll notice only day-behind information!

Dig a little deeper, and you’ll find that all California utilities (PG&E, SDG&E and SCE) are under mandate to pilot meter-to-home connections within six months. All three utilities have huge budgets for their SmartMeter (tm) programs (totaling $5.6 Billion over the next decade). SCE is putting $54.6 million into its website alone, making available energy and price data, rate sign-up options and efficiency and forecasting capabilities to its customers. PG&E boasts that 8 million smart meters are already installed. Yet none of those smart meters will provide real-time (nor even ‘near real-time’) data to customers any time soon.

The issue is one of standardization. The current prevailing wireless standard for connecting millions of smart meters is known as Zigbee Smart Energy 1.0. Texas and other US Utilities are rolling out hundreds of thousands of ZigBee SE 1.0 meters right now. However, ZigBee SE 1.0 doesn’t work seamlessly with the Internet Protocol (“IP”), instead requiring extra hardware and upgrades to do so. PG&E seems to be waiting for ZigBee SE 2.0 before provisioning the meters and providing customers their data, but has also said that the standard is “not sufficiently mature to support large scale deployment.”

Zigbee just released the Technical Documentation for Version 2.0 for Public Comment. This means that PG&E (and other utilities, and smart meter manufacturers) won’t be able to even try out the standard until 2012. (I’m not sure how they will meet their mandated deadlines, let alone deliver on their marketing speak!?)

It seems that PG&E has put their marketing cart before the technical horse. In PG&E’s effort to spin a yarn to win-over consumers, we have been thrown into marketing gimmick neverland. Meantime even Microsoft and Google have shuttered their efforts to give people more control over their power. (Some of our friends have even suggested that this might be because of the lagging utilities)

At Genability, we try to keep it all positive! There are tons of tools and apps available to take control over your power today! We like them all. And we make it easy for you to check for any available tariff options at our consumer facing site whatsmypower. Stay tuned, because we’re actually doing what PG&E is just promising. And, we understand that effective energy analytics require real time data ** coupled with accurate, **real-time pricing data (and various available options, targeted to each customer).

Also in Industry

Understanding How Complex Electricity Rates affect Solar Savings

By Carson Riley | Jun 15, 2011

If the average customer doesn’t understand how electricity prices are structured, how are they going to save money on their bill? The recent Deloitte reSources 2011 Study indicates that only 38% of people claim they understand the...

New Energy Datasets and APIs

By Robb Miller | Jun 7, 2011

The Genability Application Programming Interface (API) is just one of many energy-focused APIs that are available to developers. We encourage creative mash-ups of our electricity pricing data with other energy apps and datasets. We think that the...

Home Energy Monitors and Devices Reviewed

By Robb Miller | Apr 29, 2011

An energy device is a great step towards achieving some real home energy savings. My wife and I offered to split our savings with our kids and we’ve turned them into energy efficiency entrepreneurs!

Data Center Energy Costs and Usage

By Robb Miller | Apr 22, 2011

Facebook users share over 25 billion pieces of content, and view 500 billion pages, every month. (One of Facebook’s clusters has over 2250 machines and 23,000 cores, compressing 80-90 TB of data every day). Similarly, Linkedin crunches...