Monday, September 23, 2013

Utilities Try to Learn From Smart Meters

Vast customer data is starting to transform the ways companies operate

"Utilities have installed more than 60 million smart meters in North America in the past decade.

Now they have to figure out what to do with all the information the devices are generating.

It's a mind-boggling amount of data. Consider that traditional meters did nothing more than track consumption. They were read 12 times a year by meter readers. In contrast, smart meters bombard utilities with data, often passing along meter readings every 15 minutes, or 35,000 times a year. They also alert utilities to electricity theft and dozens of other useful things.

And that's just part of the story. In addition to the smart meters, information is streaming in from the grid itself, where millions of sensors and smart controllers are giving utilities deeper, more timely information on equipment performance and power flows.

"The flow of data is increasing fast," says Matt Wakefield, director of information technologies for the industry-funded Electric Power Research Institute in Palo Alto, Calif. "The challenge [for the industry] is in understanding the opportunities. There's a gap in analytics."

Blame It on the Pump

As utilities get their arms around the data, the implications for consumers could be significant."

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Ms. Smith is a staff reporter in The Wall Street Journal's San Francisco bureau. She can be reached at
A version of this article appeared September 23, 2013, on page R3 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal, with the headline: Data, Data and More Data.

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