Energy

Study Shows Meters For ‘Smart Grids’ Are Anything But Intelligent

So-called smart meters can give false readings that overstate energy consumption by a factor of six, according to a new study by the University of Twente.

Researchers attached nine different electronic meters to power-consuming appliances, including light bulbs, heaters, Light-emitting diodes (LEDs), and dimmers, and compared the actual power consumption to smart meter readings.

They found smart meters often gave false readings, reporting appliances were using up to 582 percent more energy than in reality. That’s nearly six times higher than reality.

Policymakers want households and businesses to install smart meters to reduce energy use. Smart meters, in theory, allow utilities to more efficiently manage energy flows in the grid, possibly making wind and solar power work more effectively.

Wind and solar power only generate electricity when the wind is blowing or the sun is shining, so operating them requires a far more accurate measurement of power usage than conventional coal, natural gas or nuclear power.

But Twente researchers found there were still big problems with meters on the market.

“These were laboratory tests, but we deliberately avoided using exceptional conditions,” Cees Keyer, a doctoral student in electrical engineering involved in the research, said in a press statement. “For example, [we used] a dimmer and 50 bulbs, while an average household has 47 bulbs.”

The largest meter inaccuracies occurred when energy saving light bulbs and LEDs were used. Scientists think inaccuracies ironically occurred due to attempts to make the meters themselves more energy efficient.

Researchers estimate these potentially inaccurate meters have been installed in at least 750,000 households in just the Netherlands. The study was conducted to confirm numerous rumors in the country that electronic energy meters gave excessively high readings.

Despite these high and inaccurate readings, the Dutch government still wants smart meters in every household by 2020.

Smart meter were intended to reduce energy use  by communicate directly with utlities and electricity providers to make wind and solar power work more effectively. Since wind and solar power only generate electricity when the wind is blowing or the sun is shining, operating them requires a far more accurate measurement of power usage than conventional coal, natural gas or nuclear power.

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