Submetering Shows Promise

smart meter energy manageThe benefits of sub-metering were explored this week by John McManus, the Managing Partner, for the Capital District Offices of Harris Beach, an Albany, N.Y.-based law firm.

The most important element may be that it changes the focus for tenants. McManus, writing at the New York State Real Estate Journal, discusses Redburn Development’s Tilley Loft apartments, which are in Watervliet, N.Y.

In master metered apartments, tenants perceive that electricity is included with rent and don’t try to act more efficiently. In submetering, the onus switches The facility uses sub-meters, which means that each tenant pays for what actually is used. The impact is not hard to predict:

In a submetered building, electricity is received through a utility-owned master meter, but electricity use in each unit is measured by building-owned meters. The building owner then bills electric charges to residents based on their actual consumption. When compared to the more traditional electricity metering methods such as master metering or direct metering, submetering electricity in multifamily dwellings has been shown to reduce a building’s energy usage by as much as 20%, according to studies from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority.

The bottom line is that air conditioners suddenly don’t stay on 24/7 and lights in unoccupied rooms are turned off.

In the New York City borough of Queens,  the North Queensview Homes – which had been getting “staggering” electric bills — went from master metering to submetering in 2015. Each resident of the 364-unit coop began being billed according to the amount of electricity used. The enabled monthly maintenance to be reduced by an average of $50 immediately.

The story may not have a happy ending, however.  The New York State Energy Research & Development (NYSERDA) has ended a problem that reimbursed multifamily home owners for as much as $250 of the $500 average cost of a sub meter. The state’s Public Service Commission now is requiring installation of a switch that can disconnect nonpaying units. This could double the cost of a submetering installation, the story says.

New York is not the only place in which submetering rules and regulations are being hashed out. The regulatory process also is ongoing in Ohio, for instance. The bottom line is that submetering is a very promising technology because it gives the party with the most incentive to be energy efficient the power to actually reduce use.

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