REALLY Smart Meters!

Smart meter

Photo Credit yewenyi

Smart electricity meter projects are being rolled out all over the globe at this stage (here’s a map of the Smart Meter projects in the US), and with the Smart Meters, come Smart Grids and Demand Response programs whereby the utilities implement peak shaving programs (and in certain cases demand stimulation) to match demand and supply curves. This will lead to a more stable grid and therefore increase the amount of variable generators (i.e. weather based renewables) it is possible to add to the grid. Great.

However, this is not nearly ambitious enough as far as I am concerned. First off, as I have said previously, cheaper electricity typically has a higher % of renewables in the generation mix. Therefore, if I am getting a smart meter, I want it to be a very smart meter. I want my meter to be going out across the grid, checking the realtime price from all utilities and dynamically sourcing the energy from the cheapest supplier at any given time. Nothing too new there, I have written about that concept previously.

Taking that idea to the next level. Imagine if utilities were mandated to publish, not only the price of electricity in realtime, but also the generation mix. I could then have a Smart Meter which would actively chose the greenest electricity for me at any time. Or the one with the best price/renewables mix.

And if we had a SuperGrid in place, then that Green electricity might be coming from Danish windfarms, Icelandic geothermal generation or North African solar farms.

Now that would be a Really Smart Meter!

UPDATE – I have been asked the relevance of the photo above – it is subtle, anyone care to guess?


  1. says

    Sorry about the confusion – I have had a couple of people ask me about its relevance. It is a bit subtle, I grant you.

    I was having a hard time coming up with a relevant photo so I thought I’d go with this one for a change of pace.

    May need to review if it is confusing people 🙁

  2. says

    Hi Tom, I get the picture but I’ll keep it to myself.

    I agree with what you are trying to achieve but it doesn’t have to be done by the meter. If a Smart Meter records your usage then you can get another service to meet the extra requirements. Unbundling the control part from the measurement part might give you more options.

    Your meter is not your property. It is belong to the distribution system operator (DSO) and cannot be tampered with by you. It would be very limiting in the marketplace if you could only get your DR services from your meter supplier.

    I prefer the unbundled option.

  3. says

    Jerry, good points, I think we absolutely have to look at DSOs more like the way we now treat our local fixed line phone operator. The local loop is unbundled and we get to pick and choose what services we use and from whom. Except in this case the complexity is magnified on a massive scale. But that shouldn’t prevent the DSO from collating that information upstream and providing it as part of the electricity stream/supply to devices/applications/appliances in the home. That’s where there Really Smart Meter comes in right?

  4. says

    Jerry – of course you are absolutely correct, the intelligence doesn’t need to be in the meter, and even if the meter is unlocked (think unlocked mobile phones), a separate, programmable device, makes far more sense.

    Cian – I prefer to use the mobile network analogy (simply because people are more familiar with switching mobile networks, roaming, and having unlocked devices – for roaming think charging your car when out shopping and having the charge appear on your utility bill!).

  5. says

    So the good news is that for the most part electrons can neither be created nor destroyed. (CERN and a few other labs not withstanding and excluding astronomical events from eons ago) However when it comes to sourcing electrons for your home or business the laws of physics are at work. All electrons are pretty much equal (again excluding the ones the folks play with in the labs) so once they are set into motion (EMF or electo-motive force aka Voltage) they follow the path of least resistance to your energized switch and device to be powered. You, your meter, and to a large degree even your utility have little impact over the source of any individual electron.

    Hence the drive to “Buy Green” or “Buy Clean” power though on the surface a delightful proposition generally does NOT provide the purchaser with any “green” electrons. It does however force the utility to source more energy from green providers than they would have without your designated purchase so in the grand scheme of things this is still a VERY GOOD idea as the net impact is to derive more and more of the grids energy from green sources.

    Now to truly go with “green” electrons one can install their own wind/solar/hydro power systems ideally with excess capacity to be a net producer and sell the excess back to the utilties. Sadly the utilities in many parts of the world have such a regulatory lock on the market and have placed such onerous restrictions on interconnection and the free-wheeling of electricity that it is almost impossible to install a local, campus or village-wide renewable energy based power system.


  6. says

    Hi, thanks for using the picture! 🙂

    And I agree that the meters should be really smart. But there may be a problem with dynamic pricing… all the meters choose the cheapest price, so the producer sees increasing demand and increases the price as the generation capacity is fixed, suddenly everyone switches to another cheapest producer and the system the starts occillating…

  7. says


    you raise a good point but something like this would be straightforward enough to prevent.

    As well as price, devices should also be listening to the grid frequency – devices would chose suppliers with higher frequencies and purchase their electricity in 30 minute chunks – this will avoid the scenario you correctly paint.

    Thanks for stopping by and commenting (and for the cool photo!).