Last fall, CenterPoint Energy Houston Electric, LLC (an electric transmission and distribution subsidiary of CenterPoint Energy, Inc), aided by the U.S. Department of Energy, launched a pilot program in the Houston, TX area to help homeowners gauge their energy consumption. Five hundred participants had smart meters with in-house displays installed in their homes; homeowners were then able to monitor and adjust their energy use based on real-time readings for their households.
Several months after the program launched, CenterPoint Energy Houston Electric surveyed those participants and are reporting a very successful initial response: 71 percent of those involved in the program said that they “changed their electricity consumption behavior as a result of the energy use data they accessed on their in-home displays.”
Commonly cited behavioral changes included turning off lights when not in the room and adjusting the thermostat when homeowners noticed unnecessary energy use.
Partially funded by a $200 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), smart meters coupled with intelligent grid technology is proving to be an important tool in raising awareness of excessive energy consumption. U.S. Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman said, “Through the Recovery Act, the Department of Energy is helping to build a smart, efficient, secure, and reliable electrical system in Houston and across the country.”
Additionally, Poneman mentioned the importance of showing families and businesses their real-time energy information to allow them to make adjustments to save money and reduce overall energy demands.
Smart meters with in-home displays benefit both the customer and the energy provider. In the past, Houston residents had to wait to receive their monthly electric bill to gauge their usage; should they now chose to install an in-home display (soon to be available for purchase in the area), they would have access to up-to-the-minute information.
Already more than half of CenterPoint Energy’s 2.2 million meters are now monitored by the smart meter system. The energy provider is able to access information remotely, allowing them to eliminate nearly 1 million in-home visits by employees in the last two years and deal more efficiently with power outages in the area.