Smart Meters and Pricing Cut Energy Usage in Half

Robyn Griggs Lawrence thumbnailEnergy-tracking technology and pricing plans based on peak usage—integral parts of smart grid technology—have helped residents in Norman, Oklahoma, cut their energy usage in half, Jess Zimmerman reports this week in Grist. On average, residents of the 2,500 homes in the study have cut their peak consumption between 11 and 33 percent.

Networking company Silver Spring Networks and Oklahoma Gas & Electric’s year-long experiment lets users get feedback on their energy consumption using different technologies and pricing plans. “The right combo of gadget and pricing plan helped people cut peak household energy use up to 57 percent, Zimmerman reports. Residents of who used smart thermostats, which self-adjust based on energy needs, prices, and overall demand, used 57 percent less energy at peak times. Residents who were billed based on real-time demand, known as “variable peak pricing,” used 1 percent more energy during low-price (i.e. low-demand) periods and 33 percent less during high-price periods than those whose prices were set according to the time of day.

Utility companies across the country are upgrading to smart meters that will enable a range of energy-conserving applications, and smart grid technology was prominent this year at the Consumer Electronics Show, highlighting applications such as Google’s Power Meter, which lets consumers program their thermostats from their computers or phones.