A smart meter is
|“||a digital meter (typically electric) that is located on the customer premises and that can record and report electricity consumption information automatically.||”|
At a basic level, smart meters will permit utilities to "collect, measure, and analyze energy consumption data for grid management, outage notification, and billing purposes." The meters may increase energy efficiency by giving consumers greater control over their use of electricity, as well as permitting better integration of plug-in electric vehicles and renewable energy sources. They may also aid in the development of a more reliable electricity grid that is better equipped to withstand cyber attacks and natural disasters, and help to decrease peak demand for electricity.
The smart meters' essential functions include
- (1) recording near-real time data on consumer electricity usage;
- (2) transmitting this data to the smart grid using a variety of communications technologies; and
- (3) receiving communications from the smart grid, such as real-time energy prices or remote commands that can alter a consumer’s electricity usage to facilitate demand response.
Smart meters identify consumption in greater detail than a conventional power meter and communicate that information back to the electrical utility for monitoring and billing purposes. Smart meters will range in terms of interaction with the utility and the distribution component of the grid, from relaying information on a daily, hourly or real-time basis. Smart meters are more tamper-resistant, can be remotely connected or disconnected, help with the detection of outages, as well as unauthorized removal and meter bypass. "Smart meters . . . have the potential to provide States with power outage information that is timelier and more accurate than otherwise possible."
Installation of smart meters and the communications technologies that accompany them may have unforeseen legal consequences for those who generate, seek, or use the data recorded by the meters. These consequences may arise under existing federal laws or constitutional provisions governing the privacy of electronic communications, data retention, computer misuse, foreign surveillance, and consumer protection.
While smart meters are designed with security in mind (i.e., following international standards using best practices such as encryption of sensitive data, system protection from viruses and malware, access control and tamper alerts on meters, and two-party authorization), systems analysts acknowledge that such connected systems can have new vulnerabilities. Smart meters were singled out as a vulnerability by a report as potentially being susceptible to fraud from "manipulated meter readings, misuse of private customer data and a threat of power outages through a large cyberattack." One particular weakness was said to be the built-in encryption of data sent from smart meters to utilities. The meters are designed to last approximately 20 years, but it was speculated that the device's built-in cryptology system may not be secure for that long a period. However, another source says that smart meter encryption and authentication "should be readily and proactively updatable" and combined with intrusion detection to better protect networks.
- ↑ Communications Requirements of Smart Grid Technologies, at 12.
- ↑ Companies are developing several new applications that use smart meter data to offer consumers and utilities better control over energy usage, for example by determining the energy efficiency of specific appliances within the household. Data Access and Privacy Issues Related to Smart Grid Technologies, at 5, 9.
- ↑ Communications Requirements of Smart Grid Technologies, at 1.
- ↑ Id. at 3.
- ↑ Id. at 3, 5. These technologies include fiber optics, wireless networks, satellite, and broadband over power line. Id.
- ↑ Id. at 20.
- ↑ Smart Grid & Cyber Security for Energy Assurance, at 1.
- Smart Meter Data: Privacy and Cybersecurity, at 1.
- "Security" section: Cybersecurity Issues for the Bulk Power System, at 8.