Smart advices for smart meter users

Some stats

As explained in a previous post, I have acquired a Smart Meter and promised to keep you informed. Now that 2013 begins, it’s time to take a closer look at the stats of my electricity consumption available through my smart meter.

I spare you the explanation how to import data in Excel and how to perform the calculations. The website interface proposed by my utility Mainova is not really user friendly and a lot of manual handling is necessary to import data for each day individually.

Average daily consumption

The previous figure shows my average daily consumption curve. Quite a typical one for households without electric heating (my family enjoys district heating). It also shows that Mainova’s tariff policy makes sense: lower tariff during low load and higher during peak load. The tariff structure to incite clients to pay attention to their load curve is well defined.

Still bad news

Now, as explained in a previous post, Mainova’s rates for the use of a smart meter are not appropriate for consumers (economically speaking). The Time of Use (ToU) tariff does not compensate the rental fee for the smart meter. For the 8 months since the smart meter is installed, I have effectively paid 3% more than the standard tariff without smart meter.

Modifying behaviour to shift consumption from peak to low hours could reduce the losses to 1%, but no wins. So I stay on my position not to bother my family with drastic changes (for instance, to eat before 6 PM or after 9 PM to avoid peak hours), unless Mainova modifies its tariff policy.

What utilities might change

Bulb

I believe in smart meters. They are useful. But I think consumers should have the right to get access to this technology at a more decent price. Let’s recommend a new tariff structure that can foster the installation of smart meters amongst Mainova’s clients:

Current prices (€) Proposed prices (€)
Peak (orange slot) 0.2348 Middle + 20% = 0.2697
Middle (blue slot) 0.2248 Unchanged = 0.2248
Low (green slot) 0.2148 Middle – 30% = 0.1574

In this case, the yearly bill is the same with or without smart meters (in my case). But with drastic behaviour change, my family could spare 13%, which is quite interesting. With limited and less annoying change, few percents of savings can be easily achieved. This is clearly a win-win situation:

  • If consumption habits remain the same, the client pays the same price (with or without smart meter).
  • If the client pays attention to his load curve and shifts some loads from peak to low hours, he pays less and utility’s peak load is accordingly reduced.
  • If the client consumes less (for instance by investing in energy efficiency devices), he pays less and utility’s production is accordingly reduced (like for any tariff structure).

What to do now?

@Mainova’s customers: do not accept a smart meter unless you are ready to pay more or to drastically change your habits.

@Mainova: please, improve your tariff structure to share the wins of smart meters deployment. As explained previously, utilities benefits are known: smart meters help you to cope with deregulation and market-driven pricing, to adapt to higher renewable energy penetration rate, real-time load data, etc.

@All of us: be critical when talking about smart grid, look at the pictures and make decision based on information, not on advertisement.

Our prediction

Customers will be more and more reluctant to accept a smart meter in their home, unless utilities communicate on their smart meters strategy and objectives, share the benefits with their clients, guarantee privacy and take into account stakeholders interests.

Flavien Port / Gauthier Dupont

Dupont Energy Consulting GmbH

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Smart consumer vs. smart meter

Bad news confirmed
Three months after the installation of Mainova’s smart meter at home, the rise of my electricity bill is definitively confirmed. Extrapolated on one year, the smart meter increases my bill by 31.5 €/year.

As explained in a previous post, the main advantage is to be able to monitor the consumption of my family.  If I want my money back, the only option is to modify our consumption behavior. We have to shift a part of our consumption from costly slots to cheaper ones. Before I start bothering my family with changes regarding our consumption behaviour, it seems astute to carry out an analysis. Thanks to the monitoring, I can retrieve enough data to make likely calculations.

The following graphic illustrates how peak consumptions may be shifted in order to reach for maximum savings.

The black horizontal line represents my household’s minimum base consumption, or base load, (fridge, heater, appliances on standby, etc.), that can be neither reduced nor shifted.

Considering all the peaks above the base load since my smart meter is installed, the savings would reach about 14.4 €/year, which doesn’t compensate for the additional monthly charges for the use of the smart meter (50.32 €/year). The tariff difference between off-peak and peak periods is too small (8.5% discount).

As a conclusion, it is not necessary to bother my family for a few euros a month. Unfortunately I was right about the fact that installing a Mainova smart meter is not profitable. It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t accept a smart meter in your home. It depends on the tariffs proposed by your utility and on your consumption behaviour.

Think smart before installing a smart meter

The political circumstances are such that sooner or later, you will have to make that change (see the EU recommendations on smart metering systems and the EU directive for electricity, Annex I-2). I hope at least that through this article, you will take good care at checking the tariff conditions.

Concerning consumption behaviour, it is obvious that my family is not a standard household. As a professional in energy efficiency, I am aware of available technologies and good habits to limit our consumption as much as possible. I don’t need a smart meter to monitor our consumption to know what to do to be a model family in energy efficiency. My kids turn off the light when leaving a room. Simple, but efficient. I’ve installed LED. Also efficient, but expensive.

If it is not your case, a smart meter could help you to identify savings you could implement. You could show to your children the consequence of not acting like energy efficiency recommends. You could analyse your consumption measurement and make a small analysis to estimate potential savings, to select the best tariffs scheme that is proposed by the utilities in your region, etc. Be smarter than your utility.

Flavien Port / Gauthier Dupont
Dupont Energy Consulting GmbH

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