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Busted: The Top 5 Smart Meter Myths

Reliant March 18, 2011

Ever since CenterPoint and Oncor began rolling out Smart Meters around Houston and Dallas, there have been many rumors going around about what the purpose of the Smart Meters actually are.
Here are the top Smart Meter 5 myths and the truths to those myths:

Myth #1: Smart Meters are inaccurate.

Truth: “Both the TDSPs (Centerpoint and Oncor) and the Texas Public Utilities Commission (PUC) have conducted investigations and determined that the meters exceeded their accuracy expectations,” says Scott Burns, a Smart Energy product manager at Reliant Energy.

Myth #2: The utility companies will use Smart Meters to turn off appliances in your house without your permission.

Truth: “Unless you sign up for a specific program and authorize the utilities to control devices in your home, utilities are unable and forbidden from doing so,” Burns says.

Myth #3: Law enforcement will use the Smart Meters to determine if you’re home so they can arrest you (if you have an outstanding warrant) or use the information against you if they see your usage increase drastically.

Truth: “Technically, law enforcement can already tell if you’re home based on things like home phone usage, Internet usage, your lights being on, etc.,” Burns says. “Additionally, if you’re running an illegal operation from your home, law enforcement wouldn’t need a Smart Meter to see all the extra electricity you’re using. An older meter still records your usage.”

Myth #4: Installation of a Smart Meter will cause your next month’s bill to skyrocket.

Truth: While some residents are seeing higher bills in the months following installation of their Smart Meters, this normally has to do with increased usage, significant temperature changes and/or rare meter-reading issues during the installation [human error]. (See Myth #1)

Myth #5: Smart Meters were invented by the electricity companies to get more money from customers.

Truth: Smart Meters can be extremely useful for managing and controlling your electricity usage if you have the tools in place to monitor what you’re actually using. You can even use these tools to help you stick to an electricity budget. Tools include things such as home energy monitors and programmable thermostats.

“Reliant wants to use Smart Meter technology to make it easier for customers to have more control over their electricity and their lives,” Burns says.

Most Important Thing to Know About Smart Meters
There are many things you should know about Smart Meters (see Myths #1-#5 above), but the most important thing you should know is that Smart Meters give you the ability to have insights into how you’re using electricity in your home.

“Residents can now have access to the data about how much electricity they’re actually using through a variety of means, such as a Weekly Summary Email, home energy monitors, mobile alerts and more,” Burns says. “Residents will also see innovations, like time-of-use rate plans that enable them to use their new insights to save money. Beyond that, the Smart Meters will also enable cutting-edge technology in homes, like Smart thermostats, Smart appliances and Smart homes.”

Smart Meters Will Change the Future of Electricity
Although there has been some skepticism, Smart Meters are already starting to change the way people use and manage their electricity.

“Residents will no longer be passive bystanders to their electricity bills,” Burns says. “They get their bills today and are typically ‘in the dark’ as to how they used that much electricity, and pay the bill anyhow. With Smart Meters, they’ll be able to make real-time decisions about their electricity usage based on real-time information. Smart Meters are also a key enabler for electric vehicles (EVs), which will reduce our country’s dependency on foreign oil.”
And according to Burns, electricity companies are just starting to scratch the surface.

“There will be future innovations that we haven’t even thought of yet,” he says. “When the Internet started to catch on in the 90s with America Online and Netscape, no one could have imagined Facebook, YouTube or Twitter. It’s the same with Smart Meters. We’re creating “Internet for electricity” and smart people will come up with ways to leverage that technology to improve the lives of consumers everywhere.”

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