Meter Number Four by Flickr user Mark Turnauckas

The NYT's skepticism of smart meters is misplaced. We see progress nationwide and with our own experiences in California.

Last week’s New York Times has a rather gloomy piece on the missing benefits of smart meters, by the usually upbeat Matthew Wald. Who knows what cloud hung over the newsroom that night, because from Gridium’s vantage point we see an explosion in the benefits of smart meters, and extremely rapid change in an industry not known for speed.

Wald’s reporting leaves the reader with the impression that smart meter rollouts only make sense if they enable a wave of dynamic prices and deployments of dishwashers that respond to market signals.

And he trots out the tired jobs-versus-technology trope to lament how the stimulus ended the promising careers of meter readers with no ostensible benefit. Allow us to add some data and observations:

1. The Smart Grid was not about rates: Dynamic rates were not the explicit objective of smart meter rollouts. Of course, smart meters enable smarter rates, but many commissions dropped requirements for dynamic rates and have still showed massive public benefit from the rollouts.

2. Real time rates are not the only dynamic prices: Real time rates are naturally scary for consumers, and the article seems to hinge on real time rates as the only option for dynamic pricing. The reality is that dynamic pricing is gradient, from time-of-use rates (TOU) to critical peak pricing and beyond. If you include time-of-use rates and recent deployments, the numbers are much more encouraging. For example, about 50% of Arizona consumers are on time of use. 25 million people in Italy. 4 million people in Ontario.

3. Rate cases follow meters: Yes, utilities are slow. The next wave of rate cases are largely opt-out TOU and promise even higher levels of enrollment. Experiments with opt-outs show that 80% adoption is quite normal. If you follow these forecasts, its easy to imagine a world where flat electricity rates are as anachronistic as fixed price airline tickets. Even Navigant’s conservative forecast indicates 55% annual growth of dynamic rates!

4. Businesses are already benefiting: While the NYT article was focused on residences, 60% of energy is bought by businesses. Commercial companies have long been exposed to–and have benefited from dynamic rates–and smart meters extend those benefits to small businesses. A case in point is in California, where over a million small businesses are being defaulted onto critical peak pricing, with substantial benefits flowing to both themselves and to the grid.

Clearly, we see a different role for rates than others, and we see progress on the ground generic cialis 100mg. Perhaps more importantly, the smart grid has met with large investments in customer information systems and a concurrent mind-shift that energy data belongs to the customer. This enables a substantial layer of private innovations, such as Gridium, to make energy data valuable for different customer classes. We’re working towards a future where analytical software plays just as big a role as pricing in guiding us to use energy more efficiently.

About Tom Arnold

Tom Arnold is co-founder and CEO of Gridium. Prior to Gridium, Tom Arnold was the Vice President of Energy Efficiency at EnerNOC, and cofounder at TerraPass. Tom has an MBA from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania and a BA in Economics from Dartmouth College. When he isn't thinking about the future of buildings, he enjoys riding his bike and chasing after his two daughters.

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