NewEnergyNews: ORIGINAL THINKING: THE SAVINGS IN SMART METERS

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    Tuesday, February 10, 2015

    ORIGINAL THINKING: THE SAVINGS IN SMART METERS

    Smart Meters: Saving the Environment and Your Wallet

    Emma Bailey, February 10, 2015 (NewEnergyNews)

    Smart Meters: Saving the Environment and Your Wallet

    In 2003, the Northeastern United States and parts of Canada were completely crippled by one of the biggest power outages in global history and it showed the public just how outdated the two nation's power grids had become. The main culprit was a tree branch that brought down a power line in Ohio and the cascading blackouts showed that the region's power grid was stretched to its limits showed that the region's power grid was stretched to its limits and needed some serious maintenance and updating.

    In the years since energy efficient appliances coupled with increased infrastructure spending has helped create an much more stable power grid but weaknesses still remained as a software bug caused another massive blackout in New York in 2013. Both of these instances highlight areas of concern that are still looming threats as cybersecurity issues are extremely visible and a need to reduce stress on the power grid continues despite improvements in the past few years.

    One potential solution to this problem is the "smart meter" which essentially links temperature and power systems into one easily accessible programs. If smart meters come into widespread use, the power savings for the individual would be substantial and the collective reduction of power usage could significantly reduce the workload on the national power grid.

    How Can Smart Meters Help?

    For years government agencies have suggested that American consumers turn their lights off when they leave their residence or turn off the thermostat during prolonged absences but in a society of instant gratification, these daily chores never seem to add up to much of a savings. Yet, even President Obama has cited studies in his speeches that showed that the United States is much less energy efficient than most of the other industrialized nations in the world and much of the waste comes from these habits along with energy wasting appliances and light bulbs.

    In this vein of thought, energy providers have been touting the smart meters the ability to automatically turn off lights, lower or raise the thermostat automatically and remotely via a special mobile app, and have a detailed report of how much energy is being used and where.

    Smart meters, coupled with newer and more efficient appliances and light bulbs, could reduce American power consumption significantly and that reduction in demand also has huge implications for carbon emissions and energy sustainability.

    The Specter of Cybersecurity

    With the seemingly endless amount of headlines revolving around which big box retailer handed over millions of credit card numbers to hackers, people are now more concerned with the protection of their privacy than ever. For many, the thought of installing a system that gathers a massive amount of data from their home and then transmits some of it to a corporation raises a lot of red flags and the Department of Energy has been working for the last few years in anticipation of this problem.

    They've drafted the Voluntary Code of Conduct (VCC) which is a rough guideline of how smart meter companies should handle their customers' data and what rights the customer has to the protection of their privacy. Given the fact that smart meters are not in widespread usage now means that this is not currently a pressing matter but it will be a very salient issue in the years to come.

    As it stands, smart meters purport state of the art encryption and protection software that will thwart any would-be home hijackers, but as hackers have shown endless resourcefulness through the years there are very legitimate concerns regarding the meters' true security. For now, these meters seems like a very convenient solution to a urgent and potentially disastrous energy crisis and hopefully this technology will be seen in the future as one of humanity's stepping ones to true sustainability.

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