The Public Utility Commission has launched a new website called www.SmartMeterTexas.com that allows customers to track their energy usage in 15-minute increments to better understand their usage patterns and potentially decrease their electricity consumption and costs. After several years of behind the scenes work, this is the first step in smart grid, or advanced meter technology that’s being rolled out.
The website is only available to customers that have had digital smart meters installed, of course. Have your most recent electric bill on hand when you log in to establish proper identification. As of Tuesday, 1 million customers in the Oncor and Centerpoint territories can use the site — and eventually more than 6.3 million Texans will be able to manage their energy use through the site.
This is the first step towards an exciting energy future where you’ll be able to view your electricity use through a browser on your smart phone and turn off or on the electricity flow to various devices. In the future you will be able to work with energy management partners (such as Google) and your retail electric provider to help better manage your use and reduce your energy consumption. In this not-so-distant frame, you’ll be able to tell if Junior left the TV on and turn it off from afar (and send him a nagging text message of course). Or maybe you realize you’re getting off work early; you’ll be able to go ahead and set your thermostat so the house will be nice and cool by the time you get home. The technological possibilities of smart meters will eventually offer us radically more control of our energy use, which will decrease overall pollution from power plants, the need for new power plants to be built, and of course our energy costs.
For now though, just a little more information may be enough to change our habits. Once we see how much energy we’re using and in what quantities, we’ll be able to change those usage patterns for the better.
Still not convinced? Just think of it this way — if you’re trying to diet you’re not going to get very far if you don’t even know the nutritional content of what you’re eating. But once you learn how many fat grams and calories are in that candy bar, you’ll probably think twice before you eat it. In the same way, folks with more information about how much energy they waste even when they’re not at home may be motivated to turn off and unplug unnecessary appliances or turn down their thermostat. This technology will help you discover those “phantom” loads or “energy vampires” that suck up electricity when they’re not even on so that you can unplug them when not in use. With a little experimentation, you’ll also be able to identify the energy hogs in your house, like refrigerators and washing machines, and can use the upcoming Trade Up Appliance Rebate to replace them. Texas has $32 million in stimulus funds available for energy efficient appliance rebates, go to the website for more information and stay tuned to Texas Vox for more information!
For more information, check out the PUC’s press release.
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