Smart meters offer potential savings, spark controversy

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Smart meters offer potential savings, spark controversy
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Smart meters offer the promise of energy savings by continually monitoring your usage and finding the optimal time to run appliances, but some people are unwilling to trade their privacy for a buck.

Power companies love smart meters because they can save on the costs to deploy personnel to read meters house by house. Yet I’ve heard a lot of complaints from people that their consumption goes bezerk upon installation.

I once owned a house that was built in 1939 and the meter was inside the house. Once a month, the power company would send a postcard for me to read the meter and send it back to them. It was all done on the honor system. Boy, that was a far cry from today’s smart meters!

True smart meters are ones that measure power consumption minute by minute, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. The idea is that power costs more to generate based on when it’s generated. Power generated at 3 a.m. costs almost zero to provide. On the other hand, power that’s generated in the mid-afternoon on a summer day when everybody has their air on costs a ton.

Smart meters are able to “talk” with smart appliances to determine the optimal time of operation. So you might load your dishwasher, but the machine wouldn’t turn itself on until the middle of the night when power is cheap.

But the technology that I love has made some people irate. There are now campaigns to ban the installation of these smart meters because people are upset about the breach of privacy. Smart meters essentially let the power company act like Big Brother, knowing what energy you’re consuming at every minute of the day. That has lead to protests all over the country.

I never saw this opposition coming. All I saw was the savings. But many obviously think differently than me. We’ll have to figure out a way to resolve this to the satisfaction of all sides.

Note: This segment originally aired February 2011

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Clark Howard About the author:
Clark Howard is a consumer expert whose goal is to help you keep more of the money you make. His national radio show and website show you ways to put more money in your pocket, with advice you can trust. More about Clark
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