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Widely distributed power sources depend on smart meters


* Connecting millions of homes and businesses as a virtual power plant will save billions on new infrastructure.

* Smart meters allow homes and businesses to sell solar power to the grid and are essential to moving to a digitised system.

* They record electricity usage in five to 30 minute intervals, with data sent automatically to power companies using wireless networks.

* Smart grids also mean customers get flexible or time-of-use plans from providers and take more control over use.

* Users can more easily monitor behaviour and change when they turn on appliances to get the cheapest heating, cooling and washing.

* Utilities can understand demand on a micro scale and make the whole system more stable, secure and sustainable.

* No more onsite meter readings mean bills can be issued quicker and more accurately.

* Utilities can better manage supply connections and disconnections and spot disruptions and leakage.

* But digitised networks rely on communications networks, meaning more remote communities may miss out.