Benefits of Smart Meters for Small Districts

Smart Meter, Boring topic

Smart meters may seem like a big move for small districts.  The average smart meter costs a customer $2 – $4 per per month during implementation and deployment, which can seem (initially) like a costly venture, requiring a lot of public persuasion. But more and more small and mid-size utilities are finding that upgrading their infrastructure to smart meters is ultimately cost-effective and beneficial to their district, because smart meters enhance efficiency, reliability, and security of electrical, gas, and water operations.

Though many customers may initially believe that smart meters only benefit the district or utility, they often come to realize that smart meters are advantageous to the customer as well.  Smart meters significantly improve customer service, help the customer make better efficiency and usage decisions, and can help reduce outage times.  In addition, the ability for the district or agency to tighten controls and access better demand and usage information ultimately helps control and reduce operational costs, which benefits the customer as well in the long run.

Advantages to Smart Meter Implementation

Control. Smart meters allow utilities and districts to better control their costs, accuracy, and data by providing the most current and accurate real-time information available 24/7/365.

Leak Detection and Outage Response.  When a broken line or outage occurs, the area is flagged.  No crew is needed to determine the extent of the problem, because the data is available via the grid communications. This reduces outage response time.

Data.  Smart meters allow the ability to obtain large amounts of real time data; anytime, from anywhere.  This instantaneous reporting allows for demand planning, peak reduction initiatives, and outage information.  This information can also be used in a larger context, to see the impacts of demographics, geography, and weather on usage and load.

Cost Reduction.  Initially, smart meter integration can be costly to implement.  But once on the grid, it allows for better demand planning, usage prediction, control, and a reduction in resources, all leading to decreased operational costs: no meter readers to pay, no trucks to run, fewer errors and malfunctions to fix, and better demand planning to help reduce usage peaks and lulls.

Equipment Optimization.  With more data, cities and districts can better anticipate growing needs, which helps make better decisions when purchasing new equipment, making system upgrades, and maintaining current equipment.  With accurate load and usage information obtained from smart meters, agencies can determine the appropriate sizes for operational equipment.

Revenue Protection.  With the most accurate, complete, and timely usage data available, fraud detection is easier, because inconsistencies in load and/or usage can be flagged.

Customer Service. With current usage information available on-demand via the grid, customer service departments can immediately help customers understand and determine the effects certain products and appliances have on their usage.  Smart meters also allow customers to immediately view the impact of a product or energy-saving initiative on their usage because meters are easy to read, which can eliminate the customer’s interface with the customer service department. In fact, a pilot program launched by CenterPoint Energy Inc. and the Department of Energy found that 71 percent of customers reported changing their energy consumption as a result of being able to access energy data through in-home displays, saving the average resident up to 11 percent. Just think if customers could see the impact of a water-saving washing machine immediately on their water usage, without having to wait 30 days for a bill!

At Black Mountain Software, we are constantly working on our breadth of products to accommodate the changing and growing needs of our small district and utility customers.  Our Automated Meter Reader interface, coupled with any manufacturer’s Automatic Meter Reading system, eliminates the work of manually entering meter readings into Utility Billing.

For more information about BMS’s Automatic Meter Reading interface, contact your Black Mountain Software representative today.

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