Years before "smart" and "grid" were synonymous for projects designed to modernize electrical services in the U.S., Vermont Electric Cooperative began making a few forward-looking improvements. In 2001, it began installing smart meters in customer homes as part of its search for high-tech ways to improve reliability and delivery.
Why are the meters so brainy? The digital meters alert the co-op to outages and save the expense of employing meter readers to gather meter stats. A GPS system built into the meters provides the cooperative’s control center real-time data that shows which homes have had power interruption. Field workers also can access the information using secure laptops.
According to the cooperative, a minor power outage that used to require at least 20 employees to solve now takes only a few. Plus, the time that customers are without power has been reduced by 40 percent. The smart meter data can be put into report form to study -- and potentially improve -- system performance. These improvements contribute to the fact that as of August 2011, the Vermont Electrical Cooperative had bested the outage prevention rates of all major Vermont utility companies.