Many of you are asking how BGE's smart meters will work in practice. As reported, the Public Service Commission approved BGE's modified smart-grid proposal and BGE has agreed to proceed. We'll see how it all works out. But the intentions are good: to reduce the use of expensive, polluting electricity and to reduce pressure on the grid and the need to build costly new power plants.
It'll take several years for BGE to replace existing dumb meters with computerized ones. It's still unclear exactly which of numerous possibilities for digital engineering and information management the meters will offer. But at a minimum the meters will a) instantly tell BGE about power outages b) give BGE billing information, eliminating the need for meter readers c) Deliver much more detailed information about a household's energy use.
That last one is very open ended, but it's also an easy prediction. At the moment each household basically gets only one piece of electricity-use data only 12 times a year: monthly kilowatt-hour consumption. Smart meters should be able to tell you not just daily but hourly electricity use, although it's too early to tell exactly how BGE will enable them. You'll have a "Smart Energy Manager" Web portal that ties into your meter and tells you what's going on. BGE promises that the meters will be upgradable and scalable, that the utility will be able to remotely improve software and, if needed, enable new apps "such as electric vehicles, customer energy portrals, mobile device applications, distribution automation and distributed solar and wind generation."
Most importantly, the meters are supposed to give BGE the information it needs to pay rebates to customers who cut kilowatt use at times of peak demand. Peak electricity is outrageously expensive, and the idea is to get people to scale back for a few hours on hot summer days -- on their air conditioning, sure, but also other stuff such as computers, pool pumps, dehumidifiers and so forth. The smart meters will track your normal energy use. Then, when
super-hot weather is forecast, BGE will let customers know by 6 p.m. the previous day that tomorrow is a "critical event day" and that cutting kilowatts will earn you rebates.
For the pilot program BGE notified people of critical days using a green orb. But it could use emails, automatic phone calls, TV and radio ads or almost anything. Then, the next day, you try to save energy during peak hours. You set the AC temperature a little higher, or if you won't be home, turn it off. You avoid running the washer & dryer and dishwasher. You wait to use the treadmill until evening. From the computerized meters BGE can detect your energy reduction from the normal baseline. You get rebates on your bill based on how much you cut back. The more you reduce, the bigger the rebates. Those who reduce kilowatt use get rebates; those who do nothing, BGE says, won't be penalized.