News Feature | June 7, 2017

Report Finds That Costs Still Make Smart Meter Tech A Tough Sell

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

Water utilities have been slow to adopt smart technology in part because of cost challenges.

“[The cost of installing a smart meter is a] heavy lift no matter what the size of the utility,” George Hawkins, DC Water’s chief executive officer and general manager, told Bloomberg BNA.

A breakdown of the costs, per the report from Bloomberg:

On average, a regular analog meter would cost $25. The average cost of installing a smart meter at each house in the nation’s capital is coming out to be $180, according to DC Water, which distributes drinking water and collects and treats wastewater for more than 672,000 residents and 17.8 million annual visitors in the District of Columbia.

Analysts agree that water utilities have been slow to adopt smart water management tools. According to an analysis of trends in the water industry by the engineering firm Black & Veatch, water utilities are “lagging in the planning process, and risk losing their seat at the table with electric and gas utility peer companies as the smart city programs advance.”

A report by the business consultants West Monroe Partners, posted by Bloomberg BNA, found that about 20 percent of U.S. drinking water utilities have adopted smart meters, compared to about 60 percent of electric utilities.

“The report found that two thirds of the 700 surveyed water utilities cite cost as a barrier to implementing smart meter technologies, especially among small- to mid-sized utilities. A smart meter can cost as much as seven times as much as the regular, analog, spinning meter,” Bloomberg BNA reported.

Despite the costs, many water utilities see smart water meters as a worthwhile investment. Forester Daily News spelled out the benefits of advanced metering infrastructure (AMI):

With AMI technology, utilities can access reams of water consumption data, broken into time periods of as short as 15 minutes. They can use these numbers to more rapidly detect leaks in the homes or businesses of their end users. They can use the data to more accurately bill their customers, reducing the amount of unbilled water flowing through their systems. And many are even setting up Web- or smartphone-based portals that allow customers to see how much water they’re consuming each day, and how it compares to past months and their neighbors’ usage levels.

To read more about smart meters visit Water Online’s AMR, AMI And Metering Solutions Center.