Smart meters will enhance storm resiliency, boost N.J. economy

All across New Jersey, our communities are experiencing the dire effects of climate change, with extreme weather like Tropical Storm Isaias causing multiday power outages and rising energy costs adding economic strain. That’s why I applaud New Jersey’s recent clean energy initiatives to prioritize energy efficiency, electric vehicle infrastructure and a green economy.

Now, in order to maximize the success of our state’s efforts, we must invest in the right technology to support New Jersey’s clean energy future. Advanced Metering Infrastructure, or smart meters, will boost energy efficiency, ensure that we have the right technology to support electric vehicles and renewable energy, and improve New Jersey’s quality of life.

Smart meters will improve services by creating a faster and more direct line of communication between utility companies and customers’ energy meters. Once deployed, smart meters will help New Jersey utilities track outages, respond to service requests in real time and pinpoint issues with more precision. This elevated ability to locate and solve problems before they grow into major hazards will make our communities safer, especially during extreme weather.

Not only will a Smart Energy Network improve energy services for all our residents, but it will also empower consumers across New Jersey to take charge of their energy usage and save money through more advanced energy efficiency programs. With the help of smart meters, customers could earn credits for reducing their energy use during times of high demand and set up digital alerts to notify them of high usage. Utilities could develop behavior-based programs to help customers adopt energy saving habits through personalized home energy reports and tips. In 35 other states, similar programs consistently reduced energy usage by 1.5-2.5%.

The data that smart meters provide also would help energy companies cut costs for consumers. Our local utilities could develop innovative rates like a time-of-use rate or hourly pricing programs that incentivize customers to use less energy during peak demand times. In northern Illinois, ComEd’s Hourly Pricing Program saved customers nearly $17 million in electricity supply charges over five years.

A smart meter network can also create jobs in the clean energy sector, helping New Jersey’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and boosting our clean energy economy. Our utilities will harness the power of New Jersey’s workforces, using local union labor to install smart meter infrastructure. Additionally, the new energy efficiency and electric transportation programs and services driven by the Smart Energy Network open the door to creating thousands of jobs in communities all over New Jersey.

Smart meter infrastructure is also a crucial part of supporting our other clean energy efforts in New Jersey. With our commitments to solar and offshore wind power, we will need a modern energy grid that can handle the ebbs and flows of a weather-dependent renewable energy supply without compromising reliability. New Jersey’s investments in electric vehicles will require a grid that can manage an influx of electricity demand while supporting technology like time-of-use tariffs to help customers save money.

At the end of the day, smart meters are a good investment for New Jersey consumers, will enhance our storm preparedness, boost energy efficiency, create jobs and enable electric vehicles and solar power in all our communities. I strongly urge New Jersey’s leaders to invest in the smart infrastructure necessary for a successful clean energy future.

Gerald Keenan is executive vice president of New Jersey Alliance for Action.