Meters that can cull energy data quickly and spot equipment problems - and send those information wirelessly to utilities - now account for 4.7 percent of all the meters installed in the United States, a new federal report said.

The figure may be small, but it's a nice jump from the 1 percent penetration in 2006, according to the "2008 Assessment of Demand Response and Advanced Metering" report by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission released this week.

The report tracks the growth of the power monitoring and supply management market since 2006. FERC compiled the report after surveying 3,407 private and public utilities, power suppliers, electric grid operators, and state and federal agencies.

The biggest market growth is taking place in Florida, the report said. Advanced meters accounted for less than 1 percent of all installed meters in the state in 2006, and grew to 10.4 percent in 2008.

Installing meters not only help utilities monitor energy use and balance supply with demand, it also can enable their customers to track their consumption at any time online, not just when they receive their energy bills.

Utilities are gradually rolling out consumer-friendly monitoring tools, which can show both the prices of electricity throughout the day and the power usage for each home or business. The goal is to encourage consumers to use less electricity during times of peak demand, when utilities charge more for power.

State mandates have prompted utilities to implement those demand-response tools. Those requirements also have brought more venture capital investments in companies that develop metering technologies and software for monitoring and managing power use (see GridPoint Gets $120M, Buys V2Green and Silver Spring Grabs $75M).

The FERC report noted that 10 states have adopted "decoupling" policies so that utilities are not tempted to make more money by generating more electricity and building more power plants. The policies typically reward utilities for carrying out energy conservation measures (see how it works in California).

But deployment progress remains incremental, partly because it takes money and time to install meters and set up the communications networks.

The Pacific Gas and Electric, which serves 15 million people in northern and central California, for example, began replacing old meters with smart meters in the fall of 2006. PG&E expects to install those meters for all of its customers by the end of 2011.

Only 8 percent of energy consumers in the country take part in demand-response programs, the FERC report said. The energy conserved through those programs has reached an estimated 41 gigawatts, or 5.8 percent of the peak demand during the summer of 2008. That is a 9 percent increase from the 3.4 gigawatts conserved in 2006.

Most of the energy conserved came from mid-Atlantic, Midwestern and southeastern United States.