05/27/2011 09:25 EDT | Updated 07/27/2011 05:12 EDT

Smart Meters Are Good for Us

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


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.