Magna cum meter

A pilot program to install smart meters in Northern and Southern Nevada is expected to be underway by late 2010, thanks to a $138 million federal stimulus grant recently awarded to NV Energy. The funds are part of the $3.4 billion set aside by the Department of Energy to develop smart grid infrastructure throughout the country, and they provide a large boost for the $298 million Nevada project.

According to NV Energy spokesperson Karl Walquist, smart meters look like regular meters, but they are digital. The meters send signals to a small device in a person’s house that shows them how much electricity they’re using. It can also show whether the user is paying off-peak, mid-peak or peak rates. Ideally, the homeowner can use this information to reduce their energy use and bills while relieving some of the load on the grid.

For example, conventional meters send energy information one way—to the utility company, which then sends you a bill. But smart meters create a two-way communication between the utility and homeowner, sending such information as how much the bill is so far that month, the cost of power per kilowatt in one hour compared to what it will be the next, and what the homeowner could save by unplugging certain appliances. So the homeowner might decide to wait to do the laundry during a cheaper time, for instance.

The utility says they ultimately want to replace every meter in the state with a smart meter, allowing ratepayers to direct their energy use year-round. The project is expected to create 200 meter installation jobs at NV Energy.