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Smart Grid and Automated Meter Reading Explained

Modernization of the electric power system, driven by advances in technology and the need to efficiently use the Generation, Transmission and Distribution assets within the United States is at the forefront of the move to create a “smart grid”. The objectives of the Smart Grid are generally defined by the following characteristics:

  • Enable active control by end-use customers.
  • Optimize generation asset utilization and operate all assets efficiently.
  • Anticipate and respond to grid system disturbances.
  • Operate resiliently against natural disasters.

Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) is one aspect of the Smart Grid currently being developed. AMI focuses primarily on a utility’s customers by providing them with more information, control and options. At its core AMI consists of advanced or “smart” meters that monitor and communicate power flows and usage, controls that measure and monitor flows and usage, and data management systems that store and process metering and control data. AMI has implications for most aspects of utility operations including potential financial benefits, cost reduction, improved customer service and regulatory compliance and opportunities for more consideration of environmental concerns.

What is a “smart meter”?

A smart meter is simply an advanced meter that collects data on a more granular level. Historically most meters were only read monthly so the only data that was available was how much energy the customer had used during that particular time period. An advanced meter collects data on a 15 minute interval basis so that the customer can see when they are using their energy and therefore they can analyze their usage patterns and perhaps make decisions on energy efficiency opportunities that might be available to them.

Common features of smart meters are:

  • Two-way communication between the customers meter and the utility office.
  • Recording of cumulative interval data on energy usage and kW demand.
  • Delivery of usage data to the utility at least on a daily basis.
  • The capability to remotely connect and disconnect power to the meter.
  • Power quality sensing for voltage.