You might only read about smart meters when media reports cover people pushing back on them, but smart meters are steadily being installed across the U.S. While back in 2009, about 6.5 percent of the meters in use in the U.S. were smart meters, that penetration rate has jumped to between 13 percent and 18 percent, according to a recent report from FERC, referencing data from the Institute for Electric Efficiency (IEE) and the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).
Other reports like one from Berg Insight last month predicted that penetration rates for smart meters is supposed to reach 50 percent by 2016 in the U.S., or just five years from now, and close to 100 percent by 2020. Unlike other networking technologies, like home Wi-Fi networks, smart meters are being mandated and installed by utilities, so the adoption rate isn’t dependent on consumers buying and installing the technology.
The close to $4 billion in stimulus funding from the Obama Administration also played a major role in getting smart meters out there; many of the funded 140 plus projects had smart meter pieces to them. According to FERC, as of Sept. 28, 2011, a little over 7 million smart meters were installed with stimulus money, and ultimately 15.5 million are expected to be installed using stimulus funds. Back in 2009, Obama called for the installation of 40 million smart meters and 3,000 miles of transmission lines.
If smart meters reach a penetration rate of close to 100 percent by 2020, the next steps will be using software, analytics, and other tools to find value with the smart meter networks, and provide value back to the customer. Smart meters, and other digital grid technologies, will unleash a massive amount of data that could overwhelm utilities, but also provide valuable tools for reducing energy consumption and adding in clean power to the grid.
Images courtesy of Portland General and FERC.