Smart Meters Explained

ELECTRICITY METERS are now a thing of past as they have been replaced with newer SMART METERS. Royal Decree 1634/2006 established a meter substitution plan for all electricity consumers contracted with less than 15 kW.

Spain is a country with 46 million inhabitants and approximately 26 million electricity customers. Three major energy players act in the country, EndesaGas Natural Fenosa, and Iberdrola, with a market share of almost 95%.

For Iberdrola customers, it’s all part of something called the STAR Project, a state-of-the-art remote grid and management distribution system. They intend to replace 10.3 million traditional meters with Smart Meters within the next five years. The project requires a total investment of some €2 billion and involves 80,000 transformer stations being adapted with remote management and monitoring capabilities.

An electric Smart Meter is one that records power consumption and communicates that information to a monitoring station for management and billing purposes. Smart Meters enable two-way communication between the meter and the central control system. Real-time sensors provide information about power outages and power surges.

Many confuse Smart Meters with home energy monitors. The roll-out of Smart Meters is one strategy for energy saving. While electricity supply companies can save millions a year from their introduction, consumer benefits will depend on people actively changing their energy use.

Utility companies propose that from a consumer perspective, smart metering offers a number of potential benefits to householders. These include, a) an end to estimated bills, which are a major source of complaints for many customers, b) a tool to help consumers better manage their energy use – stating that Smart Meters with a display outside their homes could provide up-to-date information on electricity consumption and in doing so help people to manage their energy use and reduce their energy bills and carbon emissions.

Some groups have expressed concerns regarding the cost, health, fire risk, security and privacy effects of Smart Meters and the remote controllable “kill switch” that is included with them. People living near Smart Meters have been reported to have “suffered headaches, body aches… flu-like symptoms” from the electric and magnetic fields that are emitted from the device. In the United States some meter installers have been prevented at gun point from replacing the meters.

Iberdrola has Smart Grid projects underway in the Valencia Autonomous Region, the Basque Country and Murcia.