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Smart meters 2012: good news, bad news

By: Jesse Berst |

The “storm surge” of the stimulus bill has passed, but smart meter deployments continue to rise gradually in the U.S.

According to a new report from the U.S. Energy Information Agency (EIA), the cumulative total stood at 36 million as of August 2012 — a rather anemic 3 million meter increase over the cumulative total as of December 2011. Further confirmation, as if we needed it, of the slowdown all the vendors are complaining about.

As revealing as the statistics may be, perhaps the most illuminating reminder comes in the commentary. The authors state that even though “advanced meters have some immediate benefits to the utility and reliability, much of the potential for consumers requires additional components or options.” In other words, before they can start keeping some of their (implied) promises to customers, many utilities have to find the money for additional hardware and software… not an easy task in today’s ratemaking climate.

Smart Meter Penetration - Percentage of Customers with Smart Meters

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Annual Electric Power Industry Report

More factoids from the EIA report:

  • In 2011, more than 23% of all U.S. electrical customers had smart meters
  • Smart meter penetration varies widely by state, with Maine leading in 2011 with an AMI penetration rate of 84%; West Virginia was at the bottom with no AMI installations reported last year
  • Despite highly charged smart meter opposition in many areas, utilities in Oregon, Maine and California recently reported that only very small numbers of customers are opting out of smart meter programs
  • The count of automated meter reading (AMR) meters decreased for the first time in 2011