Washington, DC, U.S.A. --- (METERING.COM) --- November 6, 2012 - Electric meters with enhanced communication capabilities are becoming more prevalent and in 2011, more than 23 percent of all U.S. electrical customers had smart meters, according to an Energy Information Administration release.

At the end of 2011, more than 33 million U.S. residential, industrial and commercial customers had smart meters. So far in 2012, progress has continued, with nearly three million additional smart meter installations reported to EIA through August.

In 2011, the count of AMR meters decreased for the first time.

Utilities have incentives to install advanced meters for residential customers because automated meter reading and remote connect-disconnect options can help lower costs. Further, revenue for regulated utilities is tied in part to capital investments. At a time when major outlays for new electric generators are fairly low, other infrastructure investments like smart meters become important revenue sources.

While advanced meters have some immediate benefits to the utility and reliability, much of the potential for consumers requires additional components such as pricing options.

However, despite the benefits, there are concerns about smart meters, including unresolved data privacy and data security issues. In addition, the net benefits of this technology to consumers remain unproven. Such concerns have resulted in moratoria or other delays on smart meter rollouts, as well as opt-out programs that allow customers to be excluded from a smart meter rollout, typically for a fee. Recently, however, utilities in Oregon, Maine, and California reported that only very small numbers of customers are opting out of smart meter programs.

Smart meter penetration rates vary widely by state. The 2011 national average penetration rate was more than 23 percent, while rates in 13 states exceeded 25 percent, with Maine topping the list with an AMI penetration rate of 84 percent. Only West Virginia reported no AMI installations in 2011, although it did report having some one-way meters. These state differences are driven by state legislation and regulation (cost recovery for metering projects typically must be approved by state utility regulators).