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Summer 2015
Vol. 1, Issue 4


Your Energy, Your Choice

What is a smart meter?
In recent years, a growing number of utilities have begun installing a new type of electricity meter in peoples’ homes, apartments, and businesses, referred to as an AMI meter or more commonly a smart meter. Unlike a conventional meter, a smart meter can record your electric use in real-time. It also enables two-way communication of this information with your local utility. In addition, the meter will not only record the amount of electricity you use from the grid, it will also record the amount of electricity produced by any onsite generation of power. Your own generation may be from the solar panels on your roof, a combined heat and power (CHP) unit on your property, or through other distributed generating systems. If the owner produces more energy than he or she uses, that energy can be sold back to the grid, resulting in a bill credit. This process is referred to as net metering. See further below for more information about net metering and generating your own power.

How do I get a smart meter installed?
Smart meters are being phased into homes and businesses by numerous utilities around the country. Contact or visit your local utility’s website to find out more about their smart meter policy, installation costs, and use.

What information does the smart meter provide?
Smart meters primarily relay information regarding the customer’s total electricity load. It also provides the utility with basic information which can help the utility provide more reliable service by understanding its customer’s needs and energy consumption patterns.

What are the benefits of using a smart meter?
A smart meter that communicates real-time data can help a consumer better understand their electricity consumption habits and how such usage will be reflected on their bill. As a result, this can help consumers better manage their electricity use and allow for potential monetary savings on their energy bill. The ability to transmit real time data also eliminates the use of utility-estimated billing practices, instead providing consumers with a more accurate bill.

Since the smart meter transmits information directly to the utility, there is no need for a utility representative to come to the consumer’s house.

One of the biggest potential benefits of using a smart meter, besides the energy management tools, are the potential rebate programs that certain utilities may offer. For example, a utility may provide discounts or other incentives for consumers lowering their electricity usage at certain times during the day, via the use of their smart meter. 

How do smart meters affect generating your own power?
Unlike conventional meters, smart meters have the ability to gauge your “net-energy usage,” meaning the meter can go up and down depending on whether or not you are generating electricity. Some customers use solar panels or other forms of small, residential style generation which can actually produce power for the grid. When this type of generation is used in tandem with a smart meter, the consumer’s contribution of power to the grid can be reflected on the meter by subtracting the generated power from the total used power, equaling the consumer’s net energy used.

Radio frequency emissions from smart meters are not dangerous.
There is some concern that the Radio Frequency (RF) emissions used by smart meters to “talk” to the utility can cause health problems. According to the American Cancer Society, the RF emissions from smart meters are not able to cause cancer in the body.[1] Such waves will also not interfere with pacemakers or defibrillators either.[2] The RF emitted is far below the FCC limits on RF exposure, and, in fact, it is less than the exposure from a microwave or cell phone.

Wrapping it up
Smart meters empower consumers to take further control of their energy use and further provides consumers the opportunity to make decisions that can result in potential electricity cost reductions on their electric bill. To learn more about smart meters, contact your local utility.

Have a great summer!
-The ACCES team
 
[1] "Smart Meters." Other Carcinogens. American Cancer Society, 24 Sept. 2014. Web. 15 June 2015. <http://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancercauses/othercarcinogens/athome/smart-meters>.
[2] "Smart Meters." Other Carcinogens. American Cancer Society, 24 Sept. 2014. Web. 15 June 2015. <http://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancercauses/othercarcinogens/athome/smart-meters>.






New on CompetitiveEnergy.org

ACCES has been featured in news publications around the country discussing the importance of energy choice. See one of the articles here.   

The national newsletter Retail Energy Buyer highlights the importance of consumer education on energy choice and references ACCES for a source when it comes to shopping for energy. 




About ACCES

The American Coalition of Competitive Energy Suppliers (ACCES) is a group of competitive retail natural gas and electricity suppliers committed to education and outreach to help consumers better understand and take advantage of the benefits of energy choice.














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