Smart technology and the electricity market

BY WILLIAM YEATMAN Published: August 7, 2010

In the face of these engineering challenges, the good news is that smart meters can facilitate a simple solution: real-time pricing. That is, they are capable of informing consumers how much electricity costs, at any time during the day. The technology could give OG&E customers a real-time price signal — a powerful tool to better manage consumption. With real-time pricing, Oklahomans could save money and make the grid more reliable. It's a win-win.

Freeing the electricity market would benefit everyone, but it would require the Corporation Commission to relinquish its power over utility bills, and it is still unclear whether the state is willing to sacrifice. For now, it is allowing a smart grid real-time pricing test in Norman (which is costing OG&E customers about 40 cents a month), but the experiment is needlessly nuanced, which suggests that the commission is making its presence felt. After all, it's not that complicated. Everyone can read a price.

Yeatman is an energy policy analyst at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a free-market think tank in Washington, D.C.