Why are we denying apartment dwellers smart grid benefits?

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By: SGN Staff

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Over 14% of U.S. households – 16 million – live in an apartment, defined as a rental unit in a building with at least five units. Yet, as EnerNex's Doug Houseman explains below, most of them don't have access to the consumption information and tools made possible by the smart grid.

 

If it makes economic sense to put a smart meter on every home, why wouldn't it pencil out to put one on every apartment? Today's apartments are stuffed full of electricity-sucking devices, after all. Don't apartment dwellers deserve the same options as everyone else? Is this a bias against low-income families? Read Doug's remarks and give me your opinion in the Comment form at the bottom. – Jesse Berst

 

By Doug Houseman

 

In a recent conversation with a number of industry people, an issue was raised that seldom gets discussed (one of fairness and inclusiveness in my mind): that of people who live in multi-dwelling units (MDUs).

 

Some multi-dwelling units – condos, apartments, dorms, extended stay hotels – actually have individual meters and people are responsible for their energy consumption bills. However, many units do not and the cost of energy is embedded in the rental or condo fee. How does one convince these people to participate in demand side management? One can argue that more low income people live in MDU, than any other type of housing, but many low income people live in single family homes. Many people with good jobs and great incomes live in MDUs as well. The numbers are not small.

 

Take Toronto for instance. When one looks at the total number of housing units in Toronto roughly half are in MDUs, so if one is working on demand side management, it is almost impossible for roughly half of the residential living units to be measured for their use of energy individually. The net result is collective “punishment” for dwellers, because they did not know what they were using, and so they have little or no indication of what they are using and with what impact on the cost of their rentals or fees over the long run.