California leads the way for the US to become more environmentally friendly with smart metering technology. While the rest of the country has heard very little of smart meters, California has moved forward in making the technology available to energy customers. California energy supplier Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) has promised to have the meters installed for all of its 9.3 million customers by 2011. By the same year, Southern California Edison (SCE) will have supplied its 5 million customers with the technology. California leads the way for the US to become more environmentally friendly with smart metering technology. While the rest of the country has heard very little of smart meters, California has moved forward in making the technology available to energy customers. California energy supplier Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) has promised to have the meters installed for all of its 9.3 million customers by 2011. By the same year, Southern California Edison (SCE) will have supplied its 5 million customers with the technology.
California is a natural fit for the technology as the state in recent years has come to accept blackouts and rolling brownouts as “normal” during the summer when energy demands are highest. Always at the front of American trends, California first experienced spikes in energy bill rates in the early 1990s when energy customers there had bills that were 50% higher than their American counterparts elsewhere. Rising prices still did not reduce energy demand and millions of people continued to flock to California. Of course, this trend swept the rest of the US in the late 90s and in the early part of the 21st century as energy consumers everywhere fretted about skyrocketing energy costs and began to experience blackouts.
By 2001, California began to experience blackouts and planned “rolling brownouts” on a regular basis. The first “rolling brownout,” a term for the energy companies’ practice of creating a blackout to force a reduction in energy demands, occurred in January 2001 and affected 500,000 people in the San Francisco Bay area. Power had not been forcibly cut to California energy customers prior to this since World War II when the concern was over Japanese submarines patrolling the coastline. Ultimately, the first planned blackout in January of 2001 affected 2 million customers. But this was only the beginning as California was in the midst of an energy crisis that was a result of several mitigating factors.
This power crisis has prompted California to lead the way in power conservation and new ways of thinking in order to fight the overburdened power grid. Of course, the environmental benefits of power conservation do not go overlooked in California either. Studies have shown that in order to implement more environmentally friendly energy sources at high levels onto the power grid, such as wind turbines or solar power, the advanced management technology enabled by smart metering is necessary. Smart meters are a benefit both financially and environmentally to the people of California.
Of course, one factor of the California energy crisis has been the huge demands upon the California power grid. Smart metering technology will help curtail these demands by providing consumers with the information they need to curtail their demand. SCE’s smart meters, have won numerous industry and technology awards for their innovative design. Not only will these meters will provide SCE customers with information about how much energy is used at more expensive peak times and less expensive off-peak times, but they will also interact directly with household appliances and provide invaluable information about how much energy these individual appliances use. Finally, SCE smart meters serve the power grid as a whole and in times of emergency are capable of “self-regulation” to avoid a blackout situation.
California innovation in smart metering comes as a result of US Congress passing the Energy Policy Act of 2005 which motivated utility companies to research smart meter technology and develop plans to implement the technology. California first implemented a pilot program for smart meters in 2002 after the state government legislated that the power companies need to develop the technology. The program proved a resounding success when 70% of program participants were able to voluntarily reduce their energy demands. With results like this, it’s a no brainer for California power suppliers to roll out the technology for all of their customers.
California is leading the way for a technology that will become commonplace in the US within 5 years.