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Pros and Cons of Smart Meters

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Old analog electric meter and new smart meter - before and after.

Old, analog meters (left) are being replaced with new, digital smart meters (right).

(c) W.L. Sunshine

“Smart" electric meters are electronic devices that track and record a customer's electric use.

Electric utilities have been replacing old, analog meters that are read manually once a month with new, digital smart meters that automatically capture information about electricity consumption and transmit it back to electric companies.

Smart meters offer the following benefits and challenges to electric utilities, customers, and the environment.

PROS

Smart meters can benefit the electric company by...

  • Eliminating manual meter reading
  • Monitoring the electric system more quickly
  • Making it possible to use power resources more efficiently
  • Providing real-time data useful for balancing electric loads and reducing power outages (blackouts)
  • Enabling dynamic pricing (raising or lowering the cost of electricity based on demand)
  • Avoiding the capital expense of building new power plants
  • Helping optimize income with existing resources

After the electric company has fully installed its advanced metering infrastructure, smart meters can benefit the electric customer by...

  • Offering more detailed feedback on energy use
  • Enabling them to adjust their habits to lower electric bills
  • Reducing blackouts and system-wide electric failures

Smart meters can ultimately benefit the environment by...

  • Preventing the need for new power plants that would produce pollution
  • Curbing greenhouse gas emissions from existing power plants
  • Reducing pollution from vehicles driven by meter readers
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