Over the past few years, Con Edison (ConEd) has installed over five million smart meters on buildings in the New York City area. If you’re one of the many people wondering why, in the midst of another rate hike, the power company decided they needed to add a fancy new device to your home, you’re not alone. But ConEd’s smart meters aren’t a waste of money by the utility—in fact, they’re a way for you to save money right now while putting the power company in a position to handle the many new requirements there are as new developments are built every day, and people buy new technology, such as Electric Vehicles (EVs) and heat pumps.
The United States is undergoing a shift towards a modernized energy system. Initially, our existing grid was designed with large power plants operated by utilities, distributing energy to nearby homes. The amount of power generated was determined by the quantity of fossil fuel burned by these utilities.
Even now, an increasing portion of our energy comes from renewable sources like wind and solar. While this energy is clean and cost-effective, it isn’t always available. The sun goes down, and sometimes the wind doesn’t blow. Managing that more complicated flow of energy sources is going to require a lot of changes for the utility. The challenge arises as demand continues to grow, with more people relying on electricity for various needs, including charging electric vehicles and switching over to electric appliances to get away from fossil fuels to heat their homes and cook their food.
Utilities now face the task of managing a more intricate electricity supply system. This complexity stems from the rising demand for electricity and the integration of new devices into the grid. A crucial aspect of addressing this challenge involves finding innovative and efficient ways to utilize the grid effectively. Smart meters play a significant role in this strategy, providing real-time data on energy usage. This data empowers utilities to optimize the limited capacity of the grid, ensuring a reliable power supply while keeping costs in check.
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You might remember a few decades back when ConEd switched out the old electro-mechanical meters, which had a series of five dials with little hands that moved like second hands on a clock for automated meter readers (AMRs), which had digital displays. Those AMRs allowed ConEd to determine how much electricity you use each month without sending workers out in the field to read the meter.
These new gadgets are part of a whole new generation of technology called Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI). If moving from the old spinning dial meters to AMRs was like moving from an abacus to a pocket calculator, these new ones are like upgrading to a new smartphone.
According to the Department of Energy, a Smart Meter “establishes two-way communication between consumers and utility providers, enhancing the management of electrical services, including blackout awareness.” For a consumer, that means that you can track how much electricity you are using as you are using it with an app on your phone and save money by shifting energy usage to off-peak hours (for people on Time-of-Use rate plans).
Believe it or not, ConEd wants you to pay less money during those peak hours. Those are times when everyone is home, making breakfast or dinner, but renewable sources like solar and wind aren’t producing as much energy as midday. That high demand and low supply puts a lot of stress on the grid. And it also causes ConEd to use the oldest and dirtiest generating plants it has. Those facilities are usually coal-fueled and contribute more to climate change than the newer, natural-gas-powered generators. By keeping our energy consumption down during those hours, we are doing much more to save energy than at any other time of the day.
ConEd’s new smart meters help encourage consumers to use less, but also helps the company manage the grid in other ways.
Saving Money: Smart meters are what allows OhmConnect to reward ConEd customers for saving energy at specific times. If you’re not already signed up, head over here now! We’ll help you save money on your bill and reward you for doing so.
Improved Customer Empowerment: The use of advanced customer tools, including web portals and smart thermostats, provides customers with enhanced control over electricity consumption, costs, and billing. By employing techniques like shifting demand to off-peak periods and leveraging customer technologies like in-home displays and programmable communicating thermostats, utilities can introduce innovative time-based rate programs and incentives, encouraging customers to reduce peak usage.
Increased Energy Efficiency: Smart meters empower consumers to make informed decisions, fostering awareness about energy conservation. This heightened awareness prompts behavioral changes, such as turning off unused lights and investing in energy-efficient appliances, resulting in decreased energy consumption and lower utility bills.
Efficient Outage Management: Swift outage restoration and precise dispatching of repair crews to specific locations contribute to lower outage costs and minimize inconveniences for customers.
Support for Renewable Energy: Smart meters play a crucial role in facilitating the integration of renewable energy sources into the grid by providing real-time data on energy production and consumption. This information assists utility companies in managing the fluctuating supply from renewable sources, contributing to a more stable and reliable energy distribution system.
Accurate Billing: Smart meters excel in providing precise billing information. In contrast to traditional analog meters relying on manual readings prone to estimation errors, smart meters automatically transmit accurate consumption data. This ensures fair and precise billing for customers, eliminating inaccuracies.
Integration with Smart Home Technology: Smart meters seamlessly integrate with various smart home technologies like thermostats and appliances, allowing consumers to automate and optimize energy usage. This integration enables automated actions based on real-time energy pricing information, ensuring a comfortable home temperature while minimizing energy costs. This integration is also how we at OhmConnect can automatically save you energy when it’s most expensive (and dirty).
Of course, smart meters bring many advantages to Con Ed as well.
Cost Savings: By optimizing metering and billing procedures, there will be a reduction in the need for on-site visits, resulting in savings on labor, increased accuracy, and timeliness in billing. This streamlined process contributes to a decrease in customer disputes and an overall enhancement in operational efficiencies.
Capital Expenditure Efficiency: Implementing efficient metering practices not only lowers utility capital expenditures but also leads to reduced customer bills. This is achieved through managing peak demand effectively, improving asset utilization, and adopting more efficient maintenance practices.
Enhanced Service: The integration of smart meters empowers utilities to remotely identify and address issues, significantly reducing response times and minimizing inconvenience for consumers. Technicians can often resolve problems without physically visiting the property, ensuring a faster and more convenient service experience.
ConEd’s investment in smart meters is an investment in energy efficiency, renewable energy, and future growth. By taking advantage of the device’s new features, ratepayers can save money, make the grid more efficient, and help prevent climate change.