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Ron Dembo

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Smart Meters Are Good for Us

Posted: 05/27/11 09:25 AM ET

Imagine you and your neighbor buy the same car. They're identical in every way, yet there is one important difference: he paid half as much as you did. How would you feel? The answer is obvious for most Canadians -- you would feel foolish because you work hard for your money.

Now, imagine someone on your street living in an identical house paid half as much for electricity as you do. You would want to know how she did it, right?

These examples are not meant to be exaggerations. Most of us pay an electricity bill, but we don't have a clue about how much electricity we consume relative to others like us. We can't see it. We can't feel it. We don't even know what's "normal." Yet we all say it is important. Strange, eh?

We measure, compare and manage almost everything that is important to us -- our weight, the fuel economy of our cars, the value of our homes -- but why not the electricity we consume?

We Canadians care about this issue, but we don't know what to do about it. Not only are we spending more to live in electricity-guzzling homes, we're contributing to one of the most significant source of carbon emissions in North America. In Toronto, 63 per cent of all carbon emissions are attributed to operation of our offices and homes, according to the City of Toronto's Energy Efficiency Office. This also affects the air we breathe and the societal cost of managing asthma in our kids. By the way, the U.S. Department of Energy says households in the 1950s used 1/3rd the electricity we use!

And here's where smart meters come in. They can help us get smart about the electricity we use. Smart meters in our homes are one of the key tools that can help us cut our electricity costs. Smart meters record the consumption of electricity in our homes in real time and publish that data back to a government owned database.

They allow for an accurate calculation of our usage and billing. They allow us to make sure we avoid expensive electricity and to shift to times when it is cheap. If used well they can make electricity cheaper. Why would anyone think of reverting back to the 'dumb' meters we grew up with? Its like asking cell phone users to stop texting and start using smoke signals!

The Province of Ontario has already spent over $1billion installing smart meters -- we have one of the largest penetrations of smart meters anywhere in the world -- almost 100 per cent of Ontario homes and small businesses have smart meters installed. That's the good news. The bad news is we have not enabled consumers with the tools to use them well -- but that is coming soon.

Dr. Ron Dembo is the founder and CEO of Zerofootprint, an organization that advocates for a mass reduction in global environmental impact through software and services to individuals, governments and corporations that measures and manages their carbon footprint.

 

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