The meter is a critical part of the electric utility infrastructure. It doesn’t provide a control function for the power system, but it is one of the most important elements from a monitoring and accounting point of view. Meters keep track of the amount of electricity transferred at a specific location in the power system, most often at the point of service to a customer. Like the cash-register in a store, these customer meters are the place where the transaction occurs, where the consumer takes possession of the commodity, and where the basis for the bill is determined. Unlike a cash-register, however, the meter sits unguarded at the consumer’s home and must be trusted, by both the utility and the home owner, to accurately and reliably measure and record the energy transaction.

Electricity is not like other commodities because it is consumed in real-time. There is nothing to compare or measure later, nothing to return, nothing tangible to show what was purchased. This makes the meter all the more critical for both the utility and the homeowner. For this reason, meters and the sockets into which they are installed are designed to standards and codes that discourage tampering and provide means of detecting when it is attempted. Intentional abuses aside, the electricity meter itself must be both accurate and dependable, maintaining its performance in spite of environmental and electrical stresses.

In general, electricity meters have been able to achieve these goals and in so doing to earn the trust of utilities and homeowners alike. The average person may have experienced a broken-down car, a worn-out appliance, or a piece of electrical equipment that died in a lightening storm, but most don’t likely recall their electricity meter ever failing. Such is the reliable legacy of the electromechanical meter....(Read more...)