Smart meter : a smart but expensive gadget

My new smart meter

In a previous post, I wrote I doubted that smart meter is a good investment for a private consumer. Now, I will prove it!

Many remain sceptical in front of theoretical arguments, even when based on figures, experience, knowledge and deep analysis. They need to see it, to believe it. I will then show them. To do so, I’ve recently acquired a smart meter. If my analysis is correct, my electricity bill shall increase. But I am ready to sacrifice a few euros a month on the altar of truth.

I’ve first checked which utilities are proposing smart meters in my area. Two only. The first one is Yello Strom, which charges 23.98 ct/kWh and 71.28 €/year (Inc.VAT). More than my current tariff by Mainova, the historical utilities: 23.48 ct/kWh and 57.98 €/year. The second one is Mainova, which proposes the following time-of-use (ToU) tariff:

  • Additional monthly charges: 50,32 €/year
  • From 8am to 3pm and from 6pm to 9pm: 23.48 ct/kWh (thereafter called “Peak”)
  • From 3pm to 6pm.: 22.48 ct/kWh (thereafter called “Mid”)
  • From 9pm. to 8am.: 21.48 ct/kWh (thereafter called “Low”)

So on the one hand, the monthly charges increase by 87%. On the other hand, there is a 4% and 9% discount on kWh tariffs in the Mid and the Low slots respectively.

The device provided by Mainova is from Landis&Gyr, reference E350 ZMF120. The linked communication module is an E35C which is based on the mobile data service GPRS/GSM.

My new bill

As my genuine consumption can be retrieved, there is supporting evidence that I would like to share with you. Let’s do it.

Here is an excerpt of my bill from May 15th to May 31st 2012, the first 17 days since the smart meter was implemented.

I would have paid 41.72€ with my former rate, which means I have lost 1.31€, in only 17 days. Considering the full period until today, I have calculated that I have already lost 4.21€, i.e. about 25-30€/year. The kWh tariff discount is too low to compensate the additional flat rate for renting the smart meter.

Benefits ! Where are you ?

Let’s take a look at Mainova advertisement, speaking highly of benefits and advantages of smart meter:

  • “Total control of your electricity bills, due to the clear analysis possibilities you have access to on your Mainova online account.”

In fact I don’t control my bill at all, the only thing I can do is watching online (with a delay of two hours) how much I consumed.

  • “Possibility to save money by shifting your peak consumptions to the cheapest slots.”

Sure it is possible to save money, but not especially thanks to the smart meter. I don’t need a tool to determine when to shift some of my Peak or Mid consumption to cheaper time slots, provided that I am capable to identify which appliance(s) caused the consumption in the Peak or Mid time slots.

  • Take advantage of many extra functions and optimize your electricity consumption depending on your needs.”

The smart meter itself is just a meter with a digital screen. The functions are in fact the ones proposed by the internet user interface. They are (for the moment) not that sophisticated. I hope Mainova will develop its tool. I had the opportunity to see the one of Yello Strom. This one is good. Once again, the smart meter doesn’t optimize your consumption, it just makes it more visible, so that you can optimize it, if you have time.

At the end of the day

We can see that the direct benefits for the end consumers are limited. Main advantage is to be able to monitor his consumption. Thanks to smart meter, customers have the opportunity to pay more for the same service.

The smart meter is an initial cost wich doesn’t seem obvious to recapture, except if one is ready for drastic change in his consumption behavior. Now that I have one at home, I will carry through experiments to find a way how smart meter can be profitable, if possible. I will keep you informed in upcoming posts.

Flavien Port / Gauthier Dupont
Dupont Energy Consulting GmbH