Once a year, someone from the electricity or gas works comes to read the meter. Soon afterwards, the customer receives an invoice listing the power consumption for the whole year.
It does not reveal precisely how much energy the customer has used at what times or with which devices. This has been the situation in the past. In future, however, private households will always be able to check their power consumption – at all times of the day and night.
With the support of the Fraunhofer Application Center System Technology AST, scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE have developed a new solution in collaboration with Oldenburg-based energy provider EWE. It enables customers to keep track of their current electricity and gas consumption at all times. “The days of ‘stupid’ meters are over,” says ISE project manager Dr. Harald Schäffler.
The new metering technologies are intelligent: “The EWE Box is an innovative communication gateway that records and saves the readings from the electricity and gas meters and transmits them to a control center via DSL.” This metering and display method – known by experts as ‘smart metering’ – has a particular advantage: “The power provider can offer the customer individual pricing models, depending on factors such as the load, the time of day or the time of year,” explains Schäffler. A different price rate could apply in summer, for instance, when little heating is required, than in winter.
The researchers have developed a special LCD display so that users themselves can always keep tabs on their energy consumption and benefit from the various pricing models. The EWE Box constantly transmits the measured values by radio to the display, which shows the current power usage in real time. If the user switches on a ‘power-guzzling’ device, the effects can immediately be seen on the display. Also displayed are the hourly and daily totals for electricity and gas consumption, costs and CO2 emissions.
Customers can also view their stored power consumption data via a personal Internet access and receive a monthly power consumption and cost analysis plus a forecast of their probable annual energy costs in future. In this way, users are in control of their energy management themselves, and saving becomes child’s play. The system will be tested by EWE in May as part of a field test involving 400 private households in the Oldenburg area. The ISE and the AST will support and monitor the experiment and evaluate the results.
Monika Weiner | alfa
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