CenterPoint Energy's smart meters open new possibilities for energy conservation. The ability to monitor energy use more frequently and in greater detail can be a powerful tool for consumers, encouraging them to make energy-saving changes in behavior such as turning off unneeded appliances, changing to more efficient lighting and adjusting their thermostats. If consumers conserve energy, less power may have to be produced.
Another important conservation tool made possible by smart meters is the ability of Retail Electric Providers (REPs) to offer lower rates for off-peak energy use - and higher rates during peak periods, such as hot summer afternoons. Such "time-of-use" rate structures could help reduce peak electric demand, which is generally the most costly energy produced as less efficient power plants are pressed into service. Moreover, reduced emissions from decreased power generation could translate into better air quality in Houston.
Smart meters also reduce the consumption of resources associated with performing basic utility services such as connections, disconnections, and meter readings, which can be executed remotely with the new technology. To date CenterPoint Energy has concluded more than 3 million service orders remotely. This has significantly decreased CenterPoint Energy's transportation fuel consumption and associated emission of greenhouse gases and other pollutants, since we are not required to “roll a truck” for all basic services.
Additionally,smart meters and the future smart grid will create a platform that will allow for the deployment and development of technologies for increasing distributed generation and energy storage capacity, such as wind and solar generation, and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs). Our smart meters measure surplus electricity generated as well as electricity received, eliminating the need for installation of expensive specialized distributed generation metering. Distributed generation can help reduce the need for new fossil-fuel generated capacity, now and in the future, and will therefore benefit the environment. Finally, a smart grid will foster technologies that promote the use of PHEVs, thereby reducing consumers' reliance on gasoline and diesel-fueled vehicles.