Over the past year, smart meters have been a major topic of discussion in B.C. as BC Hydro set about modernizing the province’s electrical grid and updating their aging infrastructure. Given the importance of this issue, I believe your readers would be interested in knowing more about one of the most significant, but less well known, energy savings made possible by smart meters; namely, those energy savings achieved through voltage optimization and other operational efficiencies.
With old-fashioned analog electrical meters (the kind most people are familiar with), an electrical utility has no way of knowing how much electricity is actually being consumed along the grid (or where) at any given moment in time. To ensure that there is enough electricity available on the grid to reliably meet consumption, utilities must therefore put more electricity onto the grid than they expect will be used.
Clearly, if more electricity is put onto the grid than is being used, a significant amount of electricity ends up going to waste. And depending upon the time of year, the amount of extra energy going to waste ranges from 8 percent to as much as 14 percent, with 10 percent being a good, average rule-of-thumb.
With digital smart meters, however, electrical utilities are able to receive real-time measurement data about the electricity demands being placed on the distribution grid. This real-time information allows utilities to gauge more precisely how much electricity actually needs to be placed on the grid (and where) at any given moment in time while still maintaining reliability of service.
Essentially, smart meters eliminate a major distribution unknown for electrical utilities and take guesswork out of the equation. The end result is a significant reduction in wasted electricity because better data leads to less wasted energy while also helping to avoid the capital cost of new generating, transmission and distribution infrastructure.
For those interested in knowing more about the benefits of voltage optimization and the other operational efficiencies made possible by smart meters, I recommend BC Hydro’s business case for smart meter implementation which is available on BC Hydro’s website and also available on our B.C. Citizens for Green Energy website at www.greenenergybc.ca
David Field, co-spokesperson, B.C. Citizens for Green Energy, Burnaby