It’s smart to watch electric metering

Even before the horrific disaster in Japan, utility companies were under pressure. They’re faced with growing demand, but more stringent building/safety regulations and tighter emissions requirements make it difficult to build facilities.

One way to reduce peak demand is to level out consumption by charging more during peak hours. This trend could create a new market for smart grid components, particularly those that require high reliability. Of more importance to this industry, adjustable rates could have significant impact on manufacturing companies if daytime rates move up significantly.

The growth of smart meters, a key infrastructure component for monitoring hourly energy usage, is a good measuring stick for determining how quickly this change is coming. Earlier this month, IDC Energy Insights predicted a worldwide growth rate of 13.0% in smart meter unit shipments from 2010 to 2015. A total of 460.9 million smart meters will ship during this period.

There are also signs that smart meters are already seeing broader usage. For example, Pike Research recently changed its predictions for smart meter security by more than 100 percent. It seems logical to me that experience in the field has shown utility companies that they need more security to thwart energy thieves.

Pike this week estimated that global investment in smart meter security will total $1.6 billion between 2010 and 2015.  That’s nearly triple the previous estimate of a $575 million during the same period. This huge change came in a short timeframe – the smaller prediction was published in August, less than six months ago.

Though higher rates are an almost inevitable side effect of the change, smart metering gives companies a way to manage those costs. Paying close attention to energy consumption, and the potential for using waste heat in some facilities, could bring a nice payback over time.

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