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Nearly Half of Electric Customers Have Smart Meters, but Adoption Rates Vary Drastically

A look at the state of smart electric metering, courtesy of U.S. Energy Information Administration data.

by / December 18, 2017

Nearly half of all U.S. electric customers have smart meters, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration — but the percentage of customers who have them varies wildly from state to state.

For example, 96 percent of customers in Nevada had smart meters, which the EIA defines as those devices that have two-way communication capabilities. In New York, less than 1 percent of customers have smart meters.

The prevalence of two-way smart meters is relatively new. According to a blog post from the EIA, the number of customers with two-way meters only overtook the number with automated one-way meters in 2012. The number with two-way meters has steadily advanced since then, to the point where about 20 million more customers have two-way meters than one-way.

There are few regional trends to pick out of the EIA’s data. Indeed, many of the states with the highest penetration of smart meters sit right next to some of the states with the lowest penetration. California, Michigan, Oklahoma, Georgia and Vermont all have high rates. Washington, Nebraska, Louisiana and Massachusetts all have low rates.

Smart meters are a relatively big business. Two Gov Tech 100 companies in 2017 sold smart meters — Itron and Aclara Technologies — while others, such as Utilidata, make use of smart meters to provide data and control solutions to utilities. Smart meters allow utilities to support real-time or near-real-time data collection, and upgrades often make it possible for utilities to collect meter readings remotely for the first time in their history. They also make it easier for customers to identify ways to save energy and support demand response programs where utilities can pay customers to use less energy at strategic moments.

Though electric utilities are more often privately held companies than water utilities, there are still plenty of publicly owned electric utilities in the U.S. Public electric utilities tend to be much smaller than their investor-owned counterparts. The American Public Power Association estimates that 60 percent of electric utilities in the U.S. are public. They serve about 15 percent of customers.

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