North Dakota considers the benefits of smart meters

Bismarck, ND, U.S.A. — (METERING.COM) — August 13, 2007 – Public Service Commissioners in North Dakota are considering the introduction of smart meters, and recently decided to draft rules to regulate their use by large C&I customers. In addition the state has asked investor-owned utilities Montana-Dakota Utilities Co., Xcel Energy Inc. and Otter Tail Power Co. to submit annual reports about the feasibility of making smart metering available for all customers.

Montana-Dakota Utilities and Xcel Energy have already introduced a remote meter reading system for the majority of their customers, but communication is only one way, transmitting reads from the customer to the utility. The smart meters will enable two-way communication, and thus allow utilities to inform their customers when electricity prices are about to rise, at times of peak demand. Customers with smart meters will then be able to postpone using power hungry appliances, or adjust their air conditioners, in an effort to avoid paying the higher price.

The decision to investigate the introduction of smart meters arose from the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which laid down that utility regulators should take steps to ascertain whether these meters would benefit both customers and utilities. The utilities serving customers in North Dakota do offer incentives to businesses to curtail power use during times of peak demand, but thus far residential customers are not able take advantage of time of use rates.

One of the aspects that will be studied is who should pay for the cost of smart meters, and whether anticipated savings will make their acquisition worthwhile.

Energy efficiency programs are not unknown in the state – for example, Xcel Energy already has a ‘cycling’ program which turns off customers’ air conditioners for 15 minutes each hour during times of high demand. Over 9,000 customers participate in this program, enjoying reductions in their electricity bills of 15 per cent in the months May to August inclusive.