Pike Research recently released the latest update of its Smart Grid Deployment tracker report and concluded that a total of 57.9 million smart meters are currently planned for installation in the United States with more than 90 active utility projects.
The report found that the momentum around smart grid and smart meter deployments has increased significantly in 2010. The second and third quarters included advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) smart meter deployment announcements covering 910,500 customers from five different utilities.
Vendor market shares remain fluid. Landis+Gyr apparently now stands as the number one manufacturer in terms of utility vendor selections, having overtaken Itron. Silver Spring Networks remains the leader in communications modules.
The report points out that a full rollout of smart meters can take several years and operational efficiency and consumer acceptance requires precise planning and wise technology decisions.
The point about consumer acceptance is particularly relevant given the news at the end of November of consumer resistance to a smart meter rollout in Maine, US. There had been complaints about the health, fire and security hazards of devices and it was subsequently discussed at a meeting of the Scarborough town council and Central Maine Power Co. (CPM) where residents expressed their concerns.
The Forecaster, the local paper, reported that the meeting went on for five hours but only managed to cover the health issues - another date has been set to discuss other concerns. But on the basis of the first meeting the Town Council has voted to ask the Maine Public Utilities Commission to prevent CPM from installing smart electric meters until more information about their safety is available and to provide an opt-out provision for customers who do not wish to have smart meters in their homes.
On the face of it it seems unlikely that smart meters are going to be harmful to health, or at least no more than home wi-fi networks or mobile phones and we hear little complaint about them. Security may well be a more significant issue, though.
Either way, action like this should give manufacturers food for thought. Smart meters will bring most benefit to utilities (and consumers) if everyone has one – partial deployment will reduce their appeal and potentially have a snowball effect as others drop out. Utilities need to be able to answer these sorts of concerns and take a convincing case to consumers.
(In the interest of impartiality, note that The Green IT Report is a supplier to Pike Research).