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Responding to Climate Change 2011

Home | Tools & Technology | Itron Helping utilities thrive in the new energy reality
 

Helping utilities thrive
in the new energy reality

Itron

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As global concerns around climate change and water scarcity force change, the pressure on utilities is intensifying. The fact is that there are benefits to better managing the world’s electricity and gas supply. That’s why there are emerging government mandates around emissions and the environment. These mandates are driven by:

  • global concern about climate change;
  • rising energy costs; and,
  • energy conservation efforts.

Meters fulfil mandates

Let’s look closer at how technology allows utilities to positively impact the environment. How will it allow them to face climate change head-on? Actually, how a utility applies smart metering and smart grid technology can play a central role in meeting these mandates. The technologies support a clean energy economy by aiding in carbon reduction. For example, given the number of smart meters Itron can produce annually, over one million tons of carbon emissions could be avoided – and that’s with conservative demand response assumptions. This is before we factor in things like fewer emissions from a reduced number of field visits and utility trucks on the road. The reduction in carbon emissions from the adoption of smart metering cannot be overlooked. In fact, the US Natural Resources Defense Council has gone as far as saying that smart meters are essential to saving the planet.

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These technologies enable a renewable power infrastructure and encourage system efficiency. Consumers are also concerned. And in a world where the consumer can be more informed, and where there is greater expectation over flexibility and transparency, utilities are looking at a vastly different end-consumer than they’ve ever seen. When consumers are more aware of, and given more choice regarding energy usage, utilities have to provide better reliability, while still controlling costs. This is an unprecedented change. It is time for this demand response to be acknowledged in the same policy realms as renewables and energy efficiency measures.

After all, demand response is about more than consumers reducing their electricity consumption at critical times; it’s about the informed changes they can make in energy usage daily. The goal of most energy efficiency or renewable programmes is to use less energy and encourage cleaner air. Demand response can further those goals, but we must consider this resource as something more than simply lowering critical peak demand on a handful of hot summer days.

Financial incentives

If we continue on this path, conservation won’t be a choice. So how can policy help get these planet-protecting technologies in place? Until we have more certainty on carbon policy, utilities will be reluctant to make investments in new technology. The environmental benefits of smart metering are clear and documented, but strong motivation from regulators is required for utilities to invest in the technology globally – commission approval and incentives can help drive this change.

As we look at ways to create a new energy reality, it is clear this challenge is bigger than any single company or organisation. Working together, we can ensure reliable energy delivery at the lowest cost, lead the way to an entirely new economy and secure our precious resources for future generations.

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