Smart Meters 1: are they really useful?

The deployment of Linky smart meters by Enedis (the new brand name of the French DNO) in France results in an emotional release of some journalists and consumers on the Web and in newspapers. Truths and lies mix: the public does not find his benefit in this communication, each conversation with the uninitiated confirms me.

France is not the only country where opposition to smart meters has been virulent. Each time, the ingredients seem identical: opposition to smart meters is the result of activism nurtured by fear and ideology. Energy companies almost always positioned defensively after allowing fears and erroneous messages, to which they react late, develop themselves.

Each reason of opposition to the smart meters deserves prior information to consumers and, in the absence thereof, provides food for the misinformation.

I propose, in a series of upcoming articles, to explore the most common grounds for opposition.

” Smart meters are described as useless”

Smart Meters are a powerful productivity tool for distribution network managers and power suppliers: productivity in meter reading, and even more with the regulatory requirement to ensure more frequent readings, productivity in handling billing disputes, productivity in the consumer billing process, productivity in managing changes of tenants, detection and measurement of electricity theft ( key point in some countries) .

Smart Meters are, for energy companies, a tool that became essential to manage the balance of networks. The development of intermittent energy sources (wind, solar) makes it more difficult production forecasts. A closer monitoring, more precise, more regular, of electricity consumption is necessary. Aggregated data from the smart meters allow this monitoring.

Smart meters are a “marketing” tool for the energy companies to better understand its customers, to establish a permanent link between it and his clients. This has a positive side, the opportunity for the customer to benefit from services tailored to their needs, and a dark side, the feeling to be, once again, a commercial target.

Finally, energy companies dream of using the smart meter as a way to help them accompany their clients in energy savings. On this point, the results obtained to date are mediocre: I refer you to articles published in that blog in the “citizens” category.

Clearly, these points show how difficult it is to consider the Smart Meters as useless for energy companies.

But what about consumers?

Certainly, they will benefit from some improvements: when their meter is in their homes, nobody will come to disturb them to read the meter, but many energy companies already offered the possibility to enter the data on internet or send it by mail. Procedures for changing supply or opening or closing an account will be faster.

However, admit that these benefits do not justify in their eyes such devices.

Visualizing the consumption in real time is presented by many suppliers as an advantage: I dream to discover a country where the majority of consumers will see it as a real benefit.

Making energy savings is not always the choice or desire of the consumer; it has become a necessity for the society and the energy company is a player in which the government will rest to ensure this necessary evolution. But spontaneously, most consumers today live this target as a constraint to face.

The interest of the Smart Meter for consumers today is limited.

People struggling against smart meters are often proponents of intermittent renewable energies whose massive integration requires near real time monitoring of consumption and thus a continuous acquisition of consumption data that smart meters allow. A new proof of the ignorance of consumers in energy applications and the imperative need for intensive education of everyone by energy companies.

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