The question posed in the title is a topic of much debate, but one thing for certain is that the new “smart meters” are revolutionizing the way consumers can view, analyze, and manage their electricity usage.
Old-fashioned electricity meters
Officially, the new meters are called advanced meters, but are commonly referred to as smart meters. Most folks probably didn’t pay much attention to their old electricity meter except when they saw a meter reader walking along the side of their house or into their backyard. The old meters did a good job of recording electricity usage on a monthly basis – they were reliable and didn’t require much attention. Customers received a monthly paper electricity bill that showed how much electricity they used the month prior. There was no way for customers to see their usage during the month or proactively manage their usage to impact their monthly costs. You simply got your bill in the mail at the end of the month and paid it.
Keep in mind that electricity meters are owned and read by the Transmission and Distribution Utilities (TDUs). The TDU’s in Texas include:
- Oncor (DFW area and North Texas)
- CenterPoint Energy (greater Houston area)
- AEP (South and West Texas)
- TNMP (areas scattered throughout the state including Texas City and Lewisville)
The TDUs read the meters and then bill Retail Electric Providers (REPs) like TXU Energy. The REPs then bill customers based on each customer’s meter consumption, as provided by the TDUs.
In comes the smart meter
So, what’s the big deal about the smart meters? Well, they offer multiple advantages to consumers:
- Your electric provider will be able to offer new time-of-use products that will empower you to have more control over your electricity bill and allow you to take advantage of discounted rates at different times of the day.
- Today, TDUs often don’t know an outage has occurred until they receive a call from the customer(s). In the next few years, the TDUs will implement systems that will allow them to detect power outages in near real-time and respond faster based on the information they receive from the smart meters. While today it is still necessary to call your TDU when you experience an outage, this requirement will eventually go away.
- The TDUs will be able to remotely obtain your electricity consumption from the meter each day. This will reduce meter reading errors and eliminate the need for estimates due to meter access issues.
- Since most smart meters will have remote disconnect and reconnect capabilities, your electric provider will be able to offer same-day switches, move-outs, and move-ins – all at potentially lower costs than they were in the past.
Today, smart meters enable TXU Energy customers to see their usage via their TXU Energy MyEnergy Dashboard, receive email alerts on their electricity usage, and use budget alerts to manage their usage to lower their upcoming bills. This is an exciting time in the Texas electricity market – smart meters are the technology gateway that gives TXU Energy the ability to offer customers new tools, pricing plans and other services that help you save energy and money.