Back in May, Google announced the roll out of its PowerMeter software that would allow electricity users to monitor their electricity use on a time-of-day basis. I was excited by the announcement since the software would link into the “smart” meter that my electricity provider, Toronto Hydro, had recently installed at my residence. Toronto Hydro was one of the initial partners in Google’s PowerMeter initiative.

Imagine my surprise, then, after calling Toronto Hydro to find out how to access my information that the representative didn’t know anything about it. Another representative who took my call a few days later still had no news about the program, but upon further investigation discovered that the partnership did indeed exist. He thanked me for asking, since he now knew something to tell other customers who asked about it.

Peggy at Energy Circle asks whether consumers are an afterthought:

As a resident of Toronto, I am privileged to live in a house equipped with a Smart Meter provided by Toronto Hydro. I also work at Energy Circle, which means I have been witness to the extraordinary power of real-time monitoring. Yesterday, I contacted Hydro to find out when we could expect our Smart Meter to start providing us with real-time data about our electricity use, so that we could start to benefit from the lessons gained by tracking and reducing our energy usage. The news isn’t great.

I should point out that we have been psyched about Smart Meters from the start. They have the potential to reveal to us the nuances of our electricity use, information that we can use to save energy and money. They are a resource, attached to our house by our utility, with seemingly endless potential for enlightenment. So those of us who have Smart Meters are the lucky ones. We are also after-thoughts.

Smart meters have great potential to modify our energy habits, benefiting individual consumers, as well as broader society if it allows us to deploy our generating capacity more efficiently. Yet this apparent lack of interest on the part of Toronto Hydro to engage its customers only reinforces widespread scepticism that the purpose of the new smart meters is to extract more revenues from electricity users, rather than helping them to conserve energy and reduce their energy bills.

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