More on Smart Meter Texas

Michael Giberson

From the Houston Chronicle, “Smart meter power usage data isn’t so current“:

A Web site touted this week as providing near real-time power use information to electricity customers with new smart meters actually delays the information by up to two days, CenterPoint Energy has acknowledged.

… The company said Monday the site would give consumers with smart meters information about their power usage in 15-minute intervals so they could make better choices about how much power they use.

Not mentioned in the news releases from the company and state regulators was that the 15-minute incremental information can take as long as 48 hours to hit the Web site.

Apparently the timeliness issue was discussed in the regulatory process that preceded roll-out of the system.  Retail electric providers favored real-time data, but “transmission companies like CenterPoint argued that consumers wouldn’t really need the data any sooner than the following day.”

I’m of about three opinions about this issue.  The article quotes the CEO of an energy management company as saying “2- to 3-day-old data … is all but useless.”  I agree, more or less.  The data isn’t useless – an interested homeowner or business manager could still learn quite a bit from examining 15-minute interval data from a few days earlier – but the delay does sap the immediacy from the system and makes it harder to put the information to use.

On the other hand, being able to access 2-day old data on power consumption at the 15-minute interval level is light-years ahead of the situation that most consumers find themselves in.  Currently I get an electric bill that reports a “previous [meter] read” and a “current [meter] read.”  No explicit dates are attached to the two bits of information, but I’m guessing the first number is from about 5 weeks before the billing date and the second one from about 1 week prior to the billing date.  This kind of meter data is “all but useless;” interval data from a few days ago would be super fantastic.

Almost no smart grid benefits will emerge directly from Smart Meter Texas, but that is okay.  It is only a taste of the possibilities, not the full smart grid smorgasbord.  This system is not “the end,” it is one beginning.