Texas Utility to Spend $690M on Smart Meter Roll Out

Sometimes we get wrapped up in detailing bleeding-edge innovations that startups are developing to help monitor home energy use. But, first and foremost, cutting home power requires a huge investment from your utility, and usually a well-established company to sell and install all those necessary smart meters. This morning, Texas utility Oncor said it’s working with a smart-meter company Landis+Gyr, based in Switzerland, to roll out a $690 million smart-meter project for 7 million customers.

That will include 3 million installed advanced meter systems, which the companies say is the largest project in Texas and one of the largest in the United States. Landis+Gyr’s contact is for $360 million, notes the Wall Street Journal. Smart meters enable customers to see how much power they are consuming, at what rate, in real time, which can encourage them to cut back. Oncor’s release this morning cites California and Ontario studies that show smart meters cut home energy use by 9 percent and 6.5 percent respectively.

That helps save customers money on their electricity bill and helps the utility better manage the power grid. PG&E and Southern California Edison have started on similar efforts. So why don’t all utilities do this?

Ah, right: the price tag. Oncor is spending $690 million to install the technology, which includes everything from the meters, the system, the installation, the back office support, the low-income in-home displays, customer education and legal costs. The customers will also ultimately help foot the bill. Oncor’s plan, which still needs regulatory approval, requests an added fee of “less than $2.35 per month for 11 years.” The release notes that an important component of successfully deploying the technology will be a consumer education campaign. True, but also installing this type of energy efficiency technology can often be significantly less than the cost of adding new power generation.

Photo courtesy of Landis+Gyr