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Texas Smart Meter Deployment

Traditional electric meters in Texas only had the ability to measure cumulative kilowatt-hours consumed.  Meter readers collected usage data approximately every 30 days.  No information was gathered about when the energy was used, only how much was used since the last meter reading.

Interval Electricity Data

To collect data on how much energy is used during a given time period, a meter must be equipped with an interval data recorder.  An interval data recorder records how much energy is used in each 15-minute interval.  This documents the electricity usage pattern, or load profile, for each customer.

Meters equipped with interval data recorders were generally limited to load research meters and customers with peak demands of 1000 kW or greater.  Utilities used load research meters to develop standard usage profiles for various customer classes through statistical sampling methods.  Customers with peak demands of 1000 kW or greater are typically industrial customers or large commercial customers (e.g., large office buildings, hospitals, large grocery stores).

Smart Meter Grid Benefits

In 2005 and 2007, the Texas Public Utility Commission issued rulemakings that paved the way for traditional electric meters to be converted to advanced meters commonly referred to as smart meters.  These smart meters have interval data recorders and continuous two-way communication that allows data to be transmitted to the electric utility.  The benefit of these meters is two-fold.  First, the grid operator, transmission and distribution utilities, and Texas retail electric providers benefit from receiving timely detailed data on customer usage rather than relying on statistical load profiles.  Understanding customer behavior leads to more accurate forecasting and planning and a more real-time measurement of how electric load responds to factors such as weather.  This enhances the efficiency and reliability of the power grid.

Smart Meter Consumer Benefits

Second, the deployment of smart meters provides an opportunity for Texas retail electric customers to gain a better understanding of how they use electricity.  This enables them to evaluate how innovative electricity rate plans might be beneficial.  Texas retail energy providers are currently offering rates plans with free nights, free weekends, and other discounted off-peak usage incentives.  Smart meters allow retail electric providers to know each customer’s exact usage during these periods and bill them accordingly.  There is also an opportunity to use smart meters to incent customers to reduce usage during critical periods.  By recording the actual usage pattern instead of only the total usage, smart meters are leading to more sophisticated rate plans that can reward retail electricity customers.

As of November 6, 2014, there were approximately 6.8 million electric meters in utilities open for Texas retail electric competition.  Only about 91,000 of those have not been converted to smart meters.  The conversion rates by utility are shown below.

Meter TypeCenterpointOncorAEP Texas CentralAEP Texas NorthTNMP
Commercial Meters99.17%99.03%99.91%99.76%57.85%
Residential Meters99.79%99.76%99.97%99.96%78.23%

Customers can now view their interval usage data online.  Additional innovative retail electric plans will be developed as Texas energy providers identify opportunities for customers to participate in dynamic pricing and load shifting opportunities.

About: Charlie Hewitt

Charlie Hewitt has more than 25 years of in-depth energy experience having served in executive and managerial roles at some of the largest retail energy providers in North America.His expertise covers a wide range of retail energy disciplines including pricing, contracting, risk management, and credit. He holds an MBA from UT Arlington, MA and BS degrees in geology from UT Austin, and was a TXU environmental research fellow.

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