Photo credit Hypergurl – Tanya Ann
I wrote a post a couple of days ago asking the question How long until all devices which consume water have networked flow meters? after talking to Oracle VP Industry Strategy, Guerry Waters about Oracle’s recently released “Testing the Water: Smart Metering for Water Utilities” study.
Having put the question out there, I’m now going to discuss some of the factors which will influence the answer!
The first thing to realise from the Oracle data is that 76% of homeowners in the US are concerned with the need to conserve water in their community and 71% believe that having access to detailed consumption data would encourage them to take steps to lower their water use. So barring and big PR disasters like the PG&E Smart electricity Meter fiasco in Bakersfield, it would seem that the vast majority of consumers are bought into the idea of having smart meters to help lower water consumption.
How about the utilities? It looks like if they do decide to rollout smart water meters, they’ll very much be pushing an open door.
Funnily enough this is where it starts to get a bit nuanced!
First off, 83% of utilities who have conducted a cost-benefit analysis (n=86) support the adoption of smart meter technology, so that’s a good start, right?
Well, yes, but what are the motivations of the utilities?
It turns out that they are far more interested in using smart meters to enable early leak detection than in supplying customers with tools to monitor/reduce their consumption!
Right away this is problematic, if the aims of the utilities and their customers are not aligned, then this will greatly complicate any rollouts. Also, if the utilities are not strongly focussed on providing consumers with tools to reduce their consumption, any such tools which are provided to homeowners would most likely be sub-optimal (an after-thought).
Then, when asked what they perceived as roadblocks, the water utilities cited the lack of cost recovery or measurable ROI as well as the up-front utility expenses required – in fact, 64% of utilities are not even currently considering a smart meter program!
So, until the water utilities are as enthusiastic to roll out smart meters as their counterparts in the electrical utilities are, then the day that we see all devices which consume water having networked flow meters is still a ways off.
Of course, in the case of the electric utilities, their enthusiasm is certainly not hurt by the amount of recovery act monies being pored into smart grids!
Great post, Tom. Working with electric utilities as my clients, and with a personal interest in public water, this gives me a lot to think about. Thanks.
The benefit from really smart meters is a lot less for water. Remember for electric the utility wants to reduce peak demand. This results in big capital savings. With water, spreading the demand won’t really make much difference.
Issues for water networks seem to be more related to managing leaks in their networks.