Smart meters may seem like an urban, sophisticated technology but they seem to be making the fastest progress in the rural and Western portions of the country.
More than 23 percent of American homes are now outfitted with Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI - the official term). These use two-way communication between utilities and their customers to support demand response and distributed generation, improve reliability, and provide information that allows consumers to manage their use of electricity. It sounds like something that would appeal to environmentally conscious sophisticates in Massachusetts and New York, but in fact the biggest progress has been in Maine, Texas and Idaho.
The map shows smart-meter penetration across the country. The darkest blue states represent more than 50 percent of homes while the white states are zero percent. The various shades of blue are rated in between. Vermont, which is trying to close down Vermont Yankee and switch to renewables, has zero penetration. Georgia, which is building two new nuclear reactors, is over 50 percent. New York, where Governor Andrew Cuomo has announced a state plan to convert to renewables, is less than 10 percent while Texas, which is fighting the Environmental Protection Agency over shutting coal plants, is over 50 percent. Altogether, 13 states have more than 25 percent smart meters and six have more than 50 percent, with Maine topping the list at 84 percent.
The rate of conversion depends very much on the initiative of local utilities, plus the reception by residential customers. Homeowners in some areas have organized resistance because they fear AMIs will increase their electric bill. Although the development of renewable energy will depend enormously on the construction of a smart grid, environmental groups have not been particularly active in pushing its development. And as Kari Lydersen reminded everyone in Midwest Energy News recently, smart meters do not constitute a smart grid. The latter will require investment in all manner of sensors, routers, switches and energy storage systems that allow the grid to redirect electrical flows and keep voltage levels stable without human intervention in real time.