Smart meters are being used in many parts of the nation but not in New Jersey.

Homes, businesses and apartment buildings in the Garden State still use the old fashioned meters, which must be read by a company representative every month. However, that could soon be changing.

The State Board of Public Utilities has given the green light to Rockland Electric, which serves parts of North Jersey, to install smart meters in the homes of more than 70,000 customers. Some believe PSE&G and JCP&L could soon begin to follow suit.

“Smart meters provide very granular data on energy usage, so consumers have the ability to make choices, where in the past they haven’t been able to do,” said Mary Barber, the director of New Jersey Clean Energy for the Environmental Defense Fund.

She noted that’s important because “the more data we can get about how people are using their energy the easier it’s going to be to actually manage energy usage.”

Doug O’Malley, the director of Environment New Jersey, agrees.

“With smart meters it’s easier to figure out when energy is being used, and also to work to reduce energy use, which benefits the electric grid and benefits consumers,” he said.

“The idea is if we can have more information on when energy is being used, we are able to figure out how to save energy. And we’ve seen this not just in theory but in practice in other states.”

Barber said with smart meters, “consumers now have the ability to know what time of day or when they’re using the most energy, so they can actually make choices to not use energy at a certain time of day. So it’s really about choice and knowledge.”

She pointed out smart meters can also help utilities get the lights back on faster if there’s an outage.

“They can automatically see through the system, through these meters, where the outages are, which enables them to plan better to restore the power.”

She noted New Jersey is one of the last states to begin to implement smart meters, so “we have a ways to go.”

O’Malley said part of the reason why we haven’t seen smart meters in Jersey yet is the “if it’s not broke don’t fix it” mentality. Also, there would be an additional expense of several hundred dollars per household. But, he says, the meters save money in the long run.

"At the end of the day, they can help us save money and reduce air pollution.”

You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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