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Despite Pandemic Setbacks, These Smart Meter Projects Are Forging Ahead 

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Smart grid projects from around the world are moving forward even though the COVID-19 pandemic is causing slowdowns. While the pandemic is expected to make already-challenging smart grid rollouts more complicated, regions are still seeing progress—especially in smart meter installation projects.

State Agency Installs Over 1.2 Million Smart Meters Throughout India

Amid COVID-19 shutdowns, the state-owned Energy Efficiency Services Limited (EESL) plans to continue a program to install smart meters throughout India. So far, over 1.2 million meters have been installed. The meters are electronic devices that record and monitor energy consumption. To date, they’ve allowed distribution companies (known in India as “discoms”) to improve efficiency in their billing by 95% and generate an average monthly revenue growth of 15-20% for each customer.

“Smart meters have been indispensable in the current situation, helping discoms function smoothly, thanks to their ability to remotely monitor and collect meter readings,” Saurabh Kumar, Managing Director of EESL told The Hindu. “Smart meters help discoms reduce AT&C [Aggregate Technical & Commercial] losses, improve their financial health, incentivise energy conservation, enhance ease of bill payments and ensure billing accuracy by getting rid of manual errors in meter reading. In addition to this, consumers get the ability to track their usage and pay their bills easily through mobile phones. It enhances consumer satisfaction through better complaint management, system stability, reliability and transparency.”

A Small Town in the U.S. Moves Forward With Smart Meter Replacement Project

In the U.S., the city of Dothan, Alabama is following through with plans to replace home electric meters with smart meters. So far, Dothan Utilities has replaced about two-thirds of meters in homes throughout the city for a total of about 22,000 homes. The group will continue to upgrade another 9,000 homes in the area with smart meters. This project allows residents to both manage their electricity usage and pay their electric bills on a mobile app.

The app provides many details that give users insight into their energy consumption, including the amount of energy they absorb each hour and outdoor temperature changes. Customers can connect the data to make their consumption more efficient and less expensive. Additionally, the system allows the utility company and the customer to communicate directly with each other. Furthermore, utilities can monitor the meters from remote locations, which eliminates the need to send workers to read meters at people’s homes.

“We’re already finding and solving problems,” Chris Phillips, Dothan Utilities Operations Superintendent, told the Dothan Eagle. “Now if a customer calls and says ‘my lights blink every day around this time,’ we’re able to provide better support. We can look at the voltage and current readings from that specific time period remotely. We don’t have to actually go and interrogate the meter in person. It’s helping us to troubleshoot…it’s been a very, very useful tool and we’re excited to have it.”

When Dothan is finished with home installations, it will begin replacing smart meters in commercial buildings in the city. Upon completion, the company will put an “electric planner” in charge of overseeing the system, who will be responsible for applying load management where necessary, so the utility can minimize power usage and rates. 

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Resources

Riley, Sable. (8 May 2020). Smart metering system proving fruitful for Dothan Utilities as installations continue. Dothan Eagle.

(12 May 2020). Smart meters come in handy in calculating power bills. The Hindu.

Kolo, Elta. (22 April 2020). Will the Coronavirus Pandemic Curb Grid Edge Momentum in 2020? Green Tech Media.

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