Saturday, November 25, 2006

smart meters

a Canadian version of the smart meter - best I can do

The smart meter is a device tied to a user pays system, where the price of electricity can vary between 7c per kwh in low general usage periods, to 39c per kwh during peak periods. Current usage for most Australians is based on a flat rate. As mentioned in the last post, I currently have three almost identical rates of between 16c and 17c per kwh.

The smart meter is about the size of a lunchbox and it sits in your kitchen – or anywhere you want to put it. It replaces the usual rotating disc meter, and consists of a set of traffic lights, green amber and red, corresponding to low and peak general usage periods.

What’s essential to note with this item is that it’s tied to an overall grid, and it depends on a retailer who works with a user-pays highly variable rate system. When the light is green, that’s the best time to switch on and use your big-ticket electrical items, such as dishwashers, air-conditioners, dryers and the like, if you really have to use them. It’s the sort of device that works well with kids – they’d take great delight in policing adults and their peak and off-peak usage, but also it’s a great educational and awareness tool for them, creating a more or less permanent sense of the importance of electricity usage, and hopefully spilling over into other areas such as the energy efficiency of individual appliances.

Still, in the current situation with a more or less flat rate operating, the smart meter has limited applicability (I was thinking of a similar sort of device, again replacing the often none-too-accessible spinning-disc meter, which simply monitors household usage rate – that’s to say, it goes into orange when the usage is higher than say, 3 revs per minute in the old spinning-disc measurement, and red when it reaches 6 revs per minute, or whatever. Why hasn’t anyone come up with such a device? Sounds simple to me).

One of the strange things about electricity meters, as it seems to me, is that they’re largely kept hidden away from prying eyes like a dirty secret. It’s almost as if we’re not supposed to worry our pretty little heads about how much electricity we’re using. Let’s bring the electricity meter out of the shadows and into our kitchens and living areas, attach bells and whistles to them, and properly raise awareness of our usage. Yay.



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