French Utilities Fear Smart Meters Will Cost Them

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A minor kerfuffle breaking out in France over energy conservation neatly conveys a conundrum of intelligent energy management.

Voltalis provides customers with a meter that monitors in home electricity use. When the electric grid is overwhelmed during a peak period Voltalis shuts down appliances in a household to ease the demand on the grid. The company says it can save home owners 10% on their electric bills and utilities billions in money spent on building new power plants. This is standard “smart” metering stuff.

Regulators in France didn’t take too kindly to Voltalis’ efforts to help consumers. The regulators think that Voltalis, in helping reduce electric use, are taking money out of the pockets of the power producers. And to compensate for that, Voltalis should be paying the utilities.

If it sounds ridiculous, that’s because it is. If you hear it again, don’t be surprised.

Conserving energy is the best way to reduce emissions and clean up energy. Today, DOE head Steven Chu wrote, “energy efficiency is not just low-hanging fruit; it is fruit that is lying on the ground. And energy efficiency means money back in your pocket because you pay less on your energy bills.”

But using less energy means that there will be fewer dollars flowing to utilities. Sure they save billions because they don’t have to build power plants, but they also lose money, as people are using less electricity.

The solution to this problem is decoupling, which would encourage power plants to be more efficient with their energy use.

Until that happens, we can expect similar battles in the future.

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