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Chris King |

How much do smart meters cost?

I often get asked by policymakers and others, "How much do smart meters cost?" A simple question, but fraught with details. It"s a bit like asking, "How much does a car cost?"

Here"s one answer, for Hydro One customers in Ontario, Canada: 79¢ per month. A simple, concrete charge added to the energy bill.

Of course, this represents only the utility"s cost, spread over 20 years or so. It does not reflect all the energy efficiency and demand response benefits that smart meters can provide, including savings from load shifting on time-of-use rates.

Based on the results of more than 100 pilot programs in North America and around the world, such benefits will significantly exceed the monthly cost of 79¢. They also vary widely by customer.

Let"s not forget other customer benefits:

  • Reduced surprise and worry about bills
  • More rate choices
  • Proactive notification of outages and estimated time of resolution -- plus perhaps advice on when one should seek shelter or help elsewhere, or to know where to access resources (gas, food, medical help, etc.) during significant storms.

Another data point on cost is Nevada, where NV Energy is charging 0¢. Meanwhile, in Texas, Oncor is charging $2.19 per month -- but collecting this fee for only 10 years.

The write-off period, utility operating savings, other factors may differ. Indeed, we have seen total capital costs per meter, including installation, range from as little as $81 to as high as $532. The average is $221 for the data we examined.

Here"s another question, this time for the customer: Are my energy savings and other benefits worth 79¢ a month?

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