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A Million Meter Milestone

March 4, 2011 - 2:36pm

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To see what installing the 1 millionth meter looked like, check out this video.

As program manager for the Department of Energy’s Recovery Act funded Smart Grid Investment Grant (SGIG) program, I’ve had the pleasure of seeing SGIG reach several important milestones recently. Among the most notable has been the recent achievement of three million smart meters installed by SGIG recipients as of December 31, 2010. On February 23, 2011, along with my colleague Chris Irwin, I was in Houston, Texas where SGIG recipient CenterPoint Energy marked an important milestone, becoming the second SGIG recipient to install one million smart meters (joining Florida Power & Light).

The CenterPoint project is the largest of the Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability’s (OE) 99 Recovery Act SGIG projects. Along with $200 million in funds from the Department, CenterPoint is providing more than $435 million of their own funds to install more than 2.2 million smart meters throughout its entire Houston-area service territory. The project also seeks to further strengthen the reliability and self-healing properties of the grid by installing more than 550 sensors and automated switches that will help protect against system disturbances like natural disasters.

CenterPoint celebrated the one million meter milestone with an event at its Energy InSight Center, where I met two customers who are great examples of what we are working to achieve with the Smart Grid. Craig Funni is the owner of the home where the one millionth meter was recently installed. Craig told me he is excited about using the capabilities of his new meter to better manage his energy consumption, as well as having the opportunity to choose among different energy rate plan offerings that best fit his personal lifestyle.

I also met Ruth Diorio, who has had a smart meter and associated in-home display technology for several months now. These devices have allowed Ruth to take personal control and ownership of her energy usage in a way not possible before. She can see how much electricity she is consuming and the price she is paying on a real time basis. This enables her to take immediate actions based on current information to control her energy use – no more waiting for the bill to show up after the fact and trying to figure out what she could have done differently to lower it. Ruth has saved almost $30 per month - which would come to $360 for a full year. As she put it to me, that’s “equal to a car payment or more food on the table for my family.” With the smart meter and in-home display she has been able to show her daughter how little things like turning off a light when not needed can add up to real savings.

Representatives from Liberty Lake, WA-based Itron – manufacturer of the OpenWay meters that CenterPoint is installing – also attended the event, as well as a staff representative of Texas’ public utility commission. CenterPoint’s event also offered the opportunity to:

  • Increase awareness, understanding and acceptance of its smart meter and Intelligent Grid deployment
  • Demonstrate consumer benefits of smart grid and the intelligent grid through Energy InSight Center tour and presentation of the millionth customer’s real-time usage through Internet gateway to his In-Home Display
  • Demonstrate how the $200 million Recovery Act grant has accelerated deployment and decreased the amount charged to consumers to cover installation costs
  • Highlight the economic impact of the grant: 500+ jobs created/retained across the nation

“We are very excited about reaching this milestone,” said CenterPoint’s Kenny Mercado, division senior vice president, Regulated Operations Technology. “With the installation of nearly 2.2 million smart meters system-wide and our intelligent grid initiative scheduled to be completed in 2013 in central Houston, we will have made significant improvements to modernize our electric infrastructure while giving customers the tools to help save on their energy bills.”

Hearing Craig and Ruth tell their stories about how this project is enabling them to take more control over their energy use and save money by saving energy really excited me. Meeting the team of professionals at CenterPoint who are making this project happen on the ground was also a privilege. The partnership established between OE and CenterPoint is making a positive difference for the people living in the Houston area.

The countdown to CenterPoint’s 2 millionth meter has begun!

For more information about the Department’s SGIG program and other grid modernization projects funded by the Recovery Act, visit the OE website and SmartGrid.gov.

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