Carolina Energy 2019: Measure It – Manage It

From Scott Carlberg

What should Carolinians expect, ask for, or watch for in their energy world in 2019? Energy Consumers of the Carolinas asked a handful of energy professionals.

Our first column about 2019 in energy was about the way that buildings and vehicles may converge to share electricity needs. This kind of energy convergence pivots on advanced technology, and what we said was a thread for energy in 2019 – data. Smart meters have been talked about a lot in the electric industry – two-way communication and real-time monitoring change the way consumers and electric providers work together. Faster, smarter, less wasteful.

We asked a company that knows a lot about measurement what it sees in 2019. Itron makes meters, measurement devices and provides other technologies and services that help utilities and cities better manage energy and water. It has a big manufacturing presence in Upstate South Carolina (West Union, SC).

Itron’s Mike Higgins

Here’s what Mike Higgins, Senior Operational Manager for Itron Oconee*, said about new technology: Smart technology will play a pivotal role in enabling consumers to use resources more wisely and encouraging increased engagement. By providing tools that give consumers more visibility into their energy usage, they will be able to save money and conserve resources. Smart technology will also improve customer service through enhanced outage notification.”

Measurement of electricity is an enabler for a heightened consumer experience. “Having access to energy usage information can impact a consumer’s energy savings and contribute to overall sustainability goals. Utilities and consumers can use smart technology to track where power outages are occurring during storms. For example, during Hurricane Florence, this helped prioritize power restorations,” said Higgins.

Smart meters already have big inroads in the U.S. “In 2017, U.S. electric utilities had about 78.9 million advanced (smart) metering infrastructure installations. …88% of the installations were residential customer installations.” (Energy Information Agency)

From Itron – OpenWay CENTRON meter, a smart device used to collect, process and transmit vital energy information to utility systems

This is part of the “smart building” trend ECC noted in our first blog about the year ahead. Or to be more inclusive, a “smart everything” trend. People are adopting it, too. “More than half (57 percent) of Americans who own smart home products say the technology saves them time and at an average of almost 30 minutes per day,” said a study by tech network CNET and Coldwell Banker several years ago.

Next year can open up new doors for consumer technology. “The significance of the smart grid will continue to grow along with the importance of smarter devices and sensors that enable visibility into the management and delivery of energy. The implementation of smart energy grids will optimize the operation of the entire grid and enable utilities to provide new and improved services to their customers,” said Higgins.

A well-established axiom of business is that the ability to measure something precedes the ability to manage it. As we measure our use of electricity we can manage it well.

*Here’s the announcement in 2017 about Itron’s facility in the Upstate of South Carolina.