Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not an Insider? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

Martin LaMonica

A View from Martin LaMonica

Smart Meters Help Utility Speed Sandy Restoration

Smart grid technologies can make the grid to recover quicker from storms, as utility Pepco is finding out.

  • October 31, 2012

As power utilities work to restore electricity service to millions of people in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, at least one utility has found its investment in smart meters is making a difference.

Con Edison in New York is one of many utilities using maps to communicate power outage status.

Pepco, which serves Washington D.C. and parts of Maryland, is using these two-way meters to automatically locate where power outages on its network occurred. Once power is restored, the utility can also ping meters to verify service, rather than send out a crew or make a phone call, according to a Pepco representative.

The widespread disruption to electricity and natural gas service from Sandy raises questions over whether smart grid technologies, such as two-way meters and advanced switches to automatically reroute power, could make the grid more resilient.

Cutting back trees near power lines is considered one of the best preventative measures. And with more than eight million people without power at the peak, communication technologies are proving vital. A number of affected utilities allow consumers to log on to check the status of power outages on Web-based maps and get up-to-the-minute updates on Twitter or Facebook.

But automation can speed up restoration. In the case of Pepco, its meters automatically send a “no power” report to its outage management system, which is quicker than having a person call in and overcomes any possible language barriers. Checking restored service from central officers via meters also saves time and personnel.

The utility, which has about 425,000 activated smart meters, had more 100,00 people suffer from power outages and 40,000 at its worst. The company projected that 95 percent of its affected customers were back online as of this morning. Pepco, which found that the automated meters sped up restoration following Hurricane Irene last year, is gathering data on how much they improve its efficiency, a representative said.

One of the complaints of smart meters is that consumers see few benefits yet ultimately need to pay for the equipment upgrades. In the case of better grid reliability, it seems the case for smart meters and other automation technology has been undersold. 

The latest Insider Conversation is live! Listen to the story behind the story.

Subscribe today
Already a Premium subscriber? Log in.
More from Sustainable Energy

Can we sustainably provide food, water, and energy to a growing population during a climate crisis?

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to Insider Plus.
  • Insider Plus {! insider.prices.plus !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Everything included in Insider Basic, plus the digital magazine, extensive archive, ad-free web experience, and discounts to partner offerings and MIT Technology Review events.

    See details+

    What's Included

    Unlimited 24/7 access to MIT Technology Review’s website

    The Download: our daily newsletter of what's important in technology and innovation

    Bimonthly print magazine (6 issues per year)

    Bimonthly digital/PDF edition

    Access to the magazine PDF archive—thousands of articles going back to 1899 at your fingertips

    Special interest publications

    Discount to MIT Technology Review events

    Special discounts to select partner offerings

    Ad-free web experience

/3
You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. This is your last free article this month. for unlimited online access. You've read all your free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for more, or for unlimited online access. for two more free articles, or for unlimited online access.