A pilot project on Maui could help lower electricity costs. It's called a "smart grid.
We get our electric bill every month, but we never really know how that electricity is being used in our homes and businesses. Through a Department of Energy grant, there may be a solution to that in the future. Jay Griffin heads up the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute and is starting a pilot project with volunteer homeowners in Kihei.
"So the first piece of that is what is known as a smart meter and that's what you have here, you can take it apart," Griffin explains. "This is a conventional electricity meter but it has different types of memory chips in there and communications."
Those communications take place between the meter and the different appliances in the home or business that use electricity. You can check on a daily basis where energy might be wasted.
"A personal, secure web site where you have the ability to look at that information and the idea here is you receive your bill at the end of the month and you don't how much electricity you used or how much it cost you until you get the bill," said Griffin.
You still have to use electricity - but knowing where it's being used can offer the homeowner some alternatives.
"Studies show that you still need to make choices about how you may want to save money but that shows reductions in energy use between two and ten percent," said Griffin.
With the increasing cost of energy, more homeowners are turning to photovoltaic cells to power their own homes. But sometimes, they must rely on the power company grid. This is going to require some adaptations of the technology - but Griffin says those are coming.
"The industry as a whole is evolving on how to manage that new type of challenge for the grid and so there's lots of newer technologies going in to support those types of innovations," said Griffin.
Griffin says Maui and Hawaiian Electric are eager to find out the results of the pilot project.
"They're absolutely interested in how to evaluate these new technologies that will support where the state's going and where people are going with wanting to save energy and wanting to install new types of energy in their home," said Griffin.
For more information, go to www.mauismartgrid.com.