Solar, Storage

Energy Meter Rewards Off-Peak Electrical Consumption

A Texas company has developed a meter that could help homeowners to earn 50 cents per kilowatt-hour for electricity generated from solar photovoltaic (PV) panels.

AUSTIN, Texas – Greenleaf Technologies of Austin is developing its Advocate Energy Metering System that will provide a method to provide dynamic access to electricity resellers and to reward homeowners for shifting their power consumption to off-peak hours. The device will provide consumers with access to all available resellers in a given region and, by monitoring energy use, it could define when power is used and ultimately allow real incentives to shift power consumption. Deregulated markets in California and other states are currently suffering as a result of not being able to curb peak energy consumption. The proposed system as a $28 chipset that can be installed easily on existing electrical meters. “Through Bluetooth technology, the Advocate has the ability to wirelessly report meter readings, select the utility with the best rate for that hour and bill the consumer,” says Jerry Warnero of Greenleaf. “If you want to find the best insurance, mortgage rates or any low bandwidth transaction, the technology is there.” Advances in solar PV storage batteries, combined with the Advocate’s ability to sense the precise moment that the grid needs electricity, will prompt homeowners to release the solar power to the utility. The concept of net metering is allowed in 29 states, where consumers who generate their own electricity can literally spin their meters in reverse and earn credits on their bill by interconnecting with the grid. A homeowner could earn 50 cents per kilowatt-hour credits for electricity that is released from 6:00 to 7:00 pm, while paying 3 cents for energy used during the 3:00 to 4:00 am period, explains Warnero. “Combined with potential tax credits, this approach is a compelling consumer proposition.” The Advocate is in the developmental stage, but should be operational by the end of this year. The company estimates that it will need approximately $5 million to complete the development process before the unit can be made available commercially. The technologies will be able to report power consumption by the hour, and also seamlessly negotiate a homeowner’s lowest power bill by selecting the best deal offered from competing deregulated utilities for that hour. “There was no way to reward consumers who shifted consumption from the peak dayparts such as 6:00 to 7:00 pm to the times of day when energy costs are lower,” explains co-inventor David Newcomb. “Energy can’t be stored like wheat or cotton. When demand increases, utilities in deregulated states must pay whatever are the market prices and pass the costs to consumers.” “The Advocate can change that model and begin rewarding smart consumption,” he says. “Consumers who are not conservation-minded will pay the premiums.” To meet demand during peak periods of the day, California utilities pay up to $1.75 per kilowatt-hour, up from an earlier average of 8 cents. Officials fear the state’s energy crisis may affect other states as they deregulate. “Because it appears that state regulators never contemplated a system with the Advocate’s transactional capabilities, states must pass new legislation to allow the Advocate to deliver its full potential,” says Greenleaf CEO Leonard Berg. Electricity suppliers predict higher prices across the U.S. because it will cost more to generate power this year from natural gas. The price of that fossil fuel is 16 times as expensive in California as it was in 1999. “We’ve redefined energy conservation to mean it is not necessarily how much power you use, but when you use it,” adds Greenleaf co-founder Christopher Webster. “The need for a device such as the Advocate is clear. California and other deregulated states do not have laws that empower consumers to be rewarded for smartly using energy.” “In deregulation, the winners will be the utilities that facilitate efficient consumption and package bonus values,” explains Webster. “The Advocate’s anticipated ability to create this type of stickiness will be the way to maximize customer retention.”