By Jonathan Marshall
PG&E leads the nation in the deployment of electric smart meters, according to a new report from The Edison Foundation Institute for Electric Innovation.
The advanced meters, which automatically record customer usage at regular intervals (typically every hour) and relay that data back to the utility, “are playing a critical role in shaping the electric grid of tomorrow and enabling the integration of new technologies and innovations across the grid,” the report says.
PG&E took the No. 1 position with more than 5.1 million meters, edging out Southern California Edison, which has about 5 million in service.
Other top-ranked utilities are Georgia Power, with 2.4 million meters, and CenterPoint Energy in Texas, with about 2.3 million meters.
The report notes that smart meters can help utilities make more reliable and efficient use of the electric grid; better integrate distributed generation, electric vehicles, and storage; and achieve operational savings through automated reading of meters, reduced truck rolls, and less energy theft.
PG&E has been using its SmartMeters for several years to more quickly detect the location of electric outages and dispatch service crews to the scene of the problem for better customer service.
PG&E’s SmartMeters are also the foundation of innovative pricing options like SmartRate, which can save customers money and boost grid reliability by shaving demand during exceptional peak periods.
They also enable PG&E’s voluntary “energy alerts” program, which tips off customers when their electricity usage increases to the point where they begin paying higher rates per kilowatt-hour based on their consumption “tier.”
For utilities that make extensive use of smart meters, the benefits of such programs and services amount to roughly $100 per customer per year, according to a study published last year by the Smart Grid Consumer Collaborative.
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