SMART METERS LAY FOUNDATION FOR UNDERSTANDING ENERGY COSTS

Deployment of smart meter technology is accelerating in the U.S., enhancing the transparency of energy bills and setting the stage for smarter management of appliances, heating, cooling and common areas.

Smart meters have long ago resolved technical issues in two-way data communication. Meter technology is still improving, but some key breakthroughs are emerging from the analysis of the massive amounts of detailed data they provide. Some of these advances include:

Sophisticated energy analytical models that help us investigate “energy guzzling” appliances and unwieldy energy demand at peak hours. Mobile consumer energy tools, including energy dashboards for smart phones and tablets, which create the opportunity to make real-time energy decisions. Identify the deepest savings opportunities in residential buildings’ common areas and amenities to control costs.

This a major shift. Once, two-way smart meters provided most of their benefits to utility companies – saving costs on manual meter reading and taking control of customer electricity use at emergency periods of peak demand in the summer and winter.

Today, the benefits of smart meters are becoming clearer to consumers as well. Consumers are learning more and more about peak versus off-peak electricity use, and they generally express a preference for renewable energy. They understand that peak-hour electricity is the rush hour of energy use, drawing more costly resources if everyone turns on the dishwasher at the same time.

As a practical matter, multifamily residents can make some decisions on a set-it-and-forget-it basis, from smart thermostat settings for hours and days of the week to automatic turn-offs for electronic entertainment and computing devices. Increasingly, chargers for plug-in electric vehicles may take advantage of overnight off-peak electricity. As smart meters record the benefits of those off-peak energy strategies, we’ll need to work to popularize them through more consumer education.

At NEP, we focus on using data-based analytics to examine usage patterns and exploring new ways to extend cost savings to residents and developers. With reliable data from smart meters and the energy analytics – and experience – to use that data, we can help both property managers and multifamily residents identify opportunities for savings.