App to check utility use every half-hour?

How much water, electricity and gas one uses - information which came only in your monthly bill - could soon be available in real time via a mobile application.

The Energy Market Authority (EMA), national water agency PUB and Singapore Power called for proposals yesterday to develop and trial technologies that will allow for water, electricity and gas meters to be read remotely in a reliable and cost-effective way.

If the smart metering system proves successful after the trial, it will be implemented across the island with dual benefits: help households cut unnecessary use of utilities and save on manpower.

Currently, meters are only read manually once every two months but the agencies hope the smart solutions proposed will allow consumers to see how much they are consuming every half an hour.

"This would allow consumers to make informed decisions on their consumption and conservation of utilities," said Minister for Trade and Industry (Industry) S. Iswaran yesterday, at the opening ceremony of the 9th Singapore International Energy Week held at Marina Bay Sands.

The trial will start in early 2018 and will last for six months, but it has not been decided which households or how many will be involved.

Singapore has had smart meters for electricity since 2013, but only for consumers who use at least 2,000 kilowatt hour of electricity a month and have switched to buy electricity from an electricity retailer or from the wholesale electricity market. Singapore households can buy electricity only from Singapore Power.

This is also the first time that an integrated system that will be able to read all utilities at once is being developed here.

It could involve the installation of new meters, or retrofitting existing meters with, for example, optical character recognition technology that will read the meter like how a person would and record the information down automatically.

"We think there will be economics of scale. Using the same platform to cover more meters will bring down the cost," said Soh Sai Bor, acting assistant chief executive at EMA's economic regulation division.

In the Intelligent Energy System Pilot conducted by the EMA in 2012 in Punggol, a small group of selected households were given a portable device that gives out real-time information about their electricity consumption.

These households lowered their usage by a few per cent.

"In terms of utility bills of households, it was relatively small, but when all these little efforts are put together, they would translate into something more impactful in terms of reducing our overall energy consumption," he said.

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