You say Smartgrid, I Say Intrusive

I have had an ongoing discussion with several people who have advocated for the smartgrid technology, while I have had many reservations, especially since it appears that this technology will attempt to alter your consumption habits whether you want to or not. This limits freedom of choice, and is but one manifestation of how the government believes it knows what is best for you than you yourself do. Incredible. They can’t chew gum and walk at the same time and they want to tell us how to act?

In the newest issue of my Electrical Co-op magazine, (I live in the country, hence the Co-op), which is intended to educate the consumer, the author expounds on the new “smart house”- the house that communicates with the power plant, ostensibly to exchange information about electrical usage. There is a problem in River City with this scenario, however.

The “smart” grid, which is in constant communication with your electrical generator, can accurately predict if the system is approaching peak capacity. The grid informs your distribution co-op about unusually high energy usage.

By prior arrangement, has provided you with a programmable thermostat  with the understanding that the co-op can take control of the system and cycle it on and off for short periods on very hot or cold days.

Texas Co-op Power, June 2009

Wow- it’s so wonderful that my government takes such an intrusive interest in my life that it knows just how hot or cold I need to be, or, more to the point, want to be. But wait- there’s more!

You can, in this smart” house, have a refrigerator, washer, dryer, and dishwasher who will tell you when you may do the chores. If you choose to do the chores on your schedule, you will have to override the “high- tariff” warnings that will blink on their electronic readouts.

That has a chilling effect on me- “high- tariff”- this means in addition to the regular price you pay for your electricity, now you will have a “punishment” payment, in effect, a tax on your”excessive” usage. If you do not use the electricity that you pay for in a way the government approves of, you will have to pay more money, on top of the rates you already pay. 

Does anyone other than me believe this is an intrusion into our Right to privacy? The government doesn’t need to know anything about when I wash my clothes, or turn the thermostat lower, as long as I pay my bill. The government doesn’t need to be in the power business- private markets should take care of this need. What the government wants is a source of data- mining, where the government collects information on its citizens and then sifts through it for what it might consider useful. That is a Constitutional No-No.

FERC (Federal  Energy Regulatory Commission) has looked to the Electrical Co-ops to take the lead in this smart technology, and admittedly, even now, there’s just 16% of the Co-ops who have this technology, but you can believe that this will snowball in a hurry, as the socialists in the government want to know all they can so they can control you all they can, because after all, they know what’s best for you.

The FERC defines “advanced metering” as a system that records customer consumption on at least an hourly basis and provides at least a daily transmittal of measurements over a communications network to a central collection point.

Texas Co-op Power, June 2009

This is a path we should tread with extreme care- our right to privacy is in peril, and for those who do not believe this, remember one thing- change is incremental, and what seems like a little thing now can be used as precedent, and enable the next step to be taken with less outrage. 

The government does not need to know any of this information, and certainly should not be telling us how to live our lives- if we want to turn the thermostat lower, or wash our dishes at an odd time, that should be our business, and we should not be penalized for this. Not everyone lives their lives like everyone else, and to use a “tariff” to punish any power usage different from what the government considers the “norm” is punitive and excessive, and possibly unconstitutional.

But we have come to expect unconstitutional behavior from this administration.
Blake

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39 Responses to “You say Smartgrid, I Say Intrusive”

  1. Randy says:

    It’s not your electricity until you buy it Blake. You don’t have a right to it. The utilities can already shut off your power at will. The newer technology is not going to change that simple fact. Smart Grid technology doesn’t seek to control your habits, only to inform. What real time meter reading accomplishes is to let you know when electricity is more or less expensive. You can choose to buy the cheaper or more expensive power. Right now you pay a flat rate for all of it, whether you use during peak usage or not. Talk about ruggedly individualistic. You are given more of a choice. Really, it’s a shining example of free market capitalism. But if you insist, you can continue to pay higher rates for other peoples power usage.

    The article that you cite is actually very good. It’s a short synopsis, but it gets it right. Here it is for anyone who cares to read it:

    http://www.texas-ec.org/texascooppower/current_month/system/connections.aspx

    • Blake says:

      You should have a right not to get penalized for when you use it- you buy it as you use it, and yes- it does seek to change your habits- that is what the “tariff”is all about. If you “choose” to use during the verboten hours, you will pay more in a penalty.
      The part that worries me is the data mining that will follow, where businesses and/or govt. knows what you use, and how you use it. It’s none of their damn business.

      • Randy says:

        You pay more for electricity during peak hours because it costs more to produce electricity during peak hours. That is what the “tariff” you speak of is all about. It’s even spelled out very clearly in the article you cite. That seems incredibly fair to me.

        Also, a smart grid only knows what you use (currently the grid already knows what you use, but on a monthly basis), not how you use it. Even THIS is addressed in the article you cite. It’s the part about smart appliances. The grid only sees a load. Even a smart grid can’t differentiate unless the appliance is able to say to the grid, “I’m a coffee maker”, or , “I’m a refrigerator”.

        You are seeing an imaginary boogeyman in a very real solution to a very real problem.

        • Blake says:

          The price of electricity is the same, no matter the time- the price is only affected by the price of fuel purchased.
          More power is PRODUCED AND USED during peak hours, true- but the price per kilowatt should remain the same- if not, they are being dishonest.

        • Randy says:

          Absolutely wrong. Power generators have a peak output capacity, when that capacity is reached power must be drawn from other sources, which are almost always more expensive than the primary source. This happens all the time. Often, during hot summer days there isn’t even enough power to be drawn from secondary sources because folks are cranking the AC. This is the cause of many brownouts, and electricity costs more to produce during these times.

        • Darrel says:

          Gee, I wonder if Blake has complained to the movie theaters because going to a matinee (off peak) costs less than going to an evening show? (during peak)

          I would only add that this sort of thing is already happening and has for decades, only more crudely. I pay a different summer rate for electricity than in the winter because it costs my utility more because of the peak demand that must be dealt with prepared for. Smart grid only refines this practice, and as Randy notes, this gives people more control and more choice in they buying decisions, not less. What we have now is more “shared cost” more “cost leveling/averaging” and thus, as Blake would mis-characterize it: “socialism.” Curious to see him arguing for THAT and against more market choice.

          D.

    • Blake says:

      This flex pricing would be something that wouldn’t fly at an auto dealer- sorry, but we’re raising the price, because you came in during our “penalty” hours. Would this work in grocery stores? It would certainly change our habits, and that is the whole point here. Charge a rate, and stick to it . Pay only for what YOU use, period. What’s so hard about that?

      • Randy says:

        If the price of the materials used to produce the cars goes up the price of the cars go up. This is an extraordinarily basic economic concept.

        • Blake says:

          I understand supply and demand- you shouldn’t pay more for electricity no matter the hour- a rate is a rate is a rate-it is that more electricity is being used during peak hours.
          As a carpenter, should I charge by the nail, or perhaps by how much air my compressor uses during “peak nailing times”, or should I charge a fee that I stand by, knowing that if I got my rates wrong, that’s my bad?

        • Randy says:

          I don’t know how much more simply I can put this, but here goes:

          During peak hours, more electricity is used, companies (not the government) have to ramp up production to meet demand. Producing more electricity costs more than producing less electricity.

          On a smart grid, you will get to see what times electricity costs more or less to produce. You can elect to pay for electricity that is cheaper or more expensive, based on how much it costs to produce electricity at the time.

        • Blake says:

          What you say, if true, is dishonest- your rate should be determined by the cost of the fuel needed to produce that power- there should not be a “sliding scale”- if there is, it is wrong. Coal, or whatever you use for fuel doesn’t cost more , you just use more of it. The ratio of coal to kilowatt stays the same, and so should your rate.
          I do not know how much more succinctly I can say that.

        • Randy says:

          Only if coal were the only way to produce electricity. And if the price of coal were static. Gasoline prices change every day. These prices are based on the supply and the demand.

  2. Aresay says:

    The mainstream media wouldn’t do it. So we are trying to get your important messages to the American people. 35 This post is a suggested read at, http://aresay.blogspot.com/

  3. a mother says:

    Here’s a theory. If everyone is told that at 1am electricity is cheapest and they all decide to do their laundry, run their ACs, etc does that mean that the co. can up the rates because they are being overloaded? It was the info that was released to their “customers” and they just decided to use at the cheapest time. If they up their rates, they are either doing a little false advertising or they should notify all their customers of a rate hike.

    “You don’t have a right to it. The utilities can already shut off your power at will.” They can’t honorably turn off my power if I’ve been paying for it. I pay for my food at a restaraunt after I eat it, I’ll pay for electricity after I use it.

    I don’t pay for other people’s usage. Someone comes to read my meter and I pay for what I use. If the companies have issues at peak periods then they should consider upping the rates so they can improve production. When my family started to eat more food, I started to cook more. Yes, its more expensive and takes more time, but I just make them eat a little less like monkeys and more like people.

    • Randy says:

      But your rates are dictated to you based on how much electricity other people use.

      From the article Blake cites in his post:

      “Peak-time electricity costs the cooperative more than electricity generated during lower demand periods. It’s not unusual for the cost of power to spike precipitously on particularly hot or cold days, say from 4 to 8 p.m. Extra generating plants, frequently the least efficient, may have to be put into service for short periods. Consumers never see the daily fluctuations in electricity costs. They generally pay a flat rate that covers a utility’s total cost of production and transmission.”

      And you are correct, the utilities can’t honorably turn off your power if you have been paying for it. They can turn it off nonetheless. They (some utilities) have and still do turn off power for short periods of time when there is too much stress on a grid. A restaurant can refuse to serve you food too, whether or not you are going to pay for it.

    • Randy says:

      There is a word for it too. It’s called a rolling blackout. I also must redact what I said about honorably shutting off your electricity if you have been paying your bills. Rolling blackouts occur out of necessity to avoid bigger problems, except in dishonorable cases like those created by Enron.

  4. a mother says:

    The odds of my “peak usage” being any other time than 4-8pm is odd. So, in essense, I’m paying for what I using…
    And during rolling blackouts, I’m not using electricity thus I am not paying for it. Rolling blackouts usually only occur in larger cities where the production does not cover the demand. How many times have you heard of a rolling black out hitting the backwoods?
    I think I’ll be retiring somewhere I can have a well, some solar panels, and a farm. Then I’ll only have to pay for the gas to put in my vehicle and the rest of the niceties of life. Yes, I’ll have to pay for all the equipment, but at least I won’t be relying on someone else to provide for me that which I find a necessity.

    • Randy says:

      Good for you. I am a huge advocate for people generating their own power for their homes.

      As far as peak usage and smart grids go, what I don’t understand is why some folks here are so resistant to having the market reflect their energy prices in real time. It’s a near perfect example of free market capitalism. It allows for more efficient electric distribution and gives the consumer data that helps them better manage their energy usage.

      • Blake says:

        “…gives the consumer data that helps them better manage their energy usage.”
        You can take that to mean make them change their habits.
        And Tariff is defined as ” a duty or fee imposed”- that would be on top of whatever it is I am already paying, so as to monetarily “assist” me in making that decision.
        Believe me, i am all for solar, or wind, or whatever works, but like hybrid cars that are too wimpy for the job, if an energy source won’t do the job, don’t expect me to get behind it.
        The way it stands now, when my gas engine dies, I’ll get another gas engine and put it in the old body. If you have to haul something, nothing beats the gasoline engine.

        • Randy says:

          You act as if these are going to be draconian measures put into place to regulate your entire life. That’s not the case. You would be provided information with which you could base decisions. Informed decisions that YOU make. If you want to crank up the AC with all your windows opened during peak usage, no one is going to stop you. You will be able to see, in real time, why that is a really dumb thing to do.

        • Blake says:

          In a perfect world— as we can see, we do not live in a perfect world, and Barama is perfectly fine with draconian measures. The fact that the price for energy under his watch will at least double is not re assuring either, nor will be the imposition of more taxes yet on energy, or imposing a lifestyle we do not want or cars we will not buy because they are POS. All in the name of “green”, everybody hops on the bandwagon, whether or not its a valid and workable bandwagon.
          Reminds me of my mother saying,” If everybody else jumped off of a bridge….”

        • a mother says:

          The only reason I would go to self-supplied energy would be the relative price of “outsourcing” my energy needs. Then I’d have to think of Big Brother raising the prices of solar panels and the like just so people like me have no choice but to go with what is supplied.
          I’m with Blake. I’ve driven a “Smart” car (which is seriously like driving in a coke can, yeah buddy, that’s safe) and I’ve driven a good ole gas. I’ll stick with my minivan that can haul everything from just us to everything and has impeccible safety ratings.

        • Randy says:

          I’m not gonna let you take me off topic here. This conversation is about a smart grid, not cars. I was trying to explain some clear misunderstandings you have about smart grid technology. At least I thought they were misunderstandings. I really think that you have thrown all objectivity out the window and think that “Barack Obama supports it, therefore it MUST be a terrible idea!”

        • Blake says:

          No, we are not truly off topic here, since the smartgrid, alternative fuels, hybrid tech, and everything else will be rolled into one awful bill that we do not have the money for, we can speak of it all.
          I understand where you are coming from, but as I said before, Barama isn’t loathe to use draconian measures, and some of this tech is still as far as I am concerned, suspicious. One of the guys who headed up Intel, Graves, i think his name is, once said that only the paranoid survive. Whether this is true or not, caution in all things is indicated. Especially in turning our lives on edge.

        • Blake says:

          Just remember, it is better to get it right, than to get it right now.

        • Randy says:

          You don’t understand the technology though, and you don’t seem that interested in understanding it, only arguing against it. The argument that the government is imposing changes to your daily habits is ridiculous. People’s habits will change, sure. Many will opt to buy electricity when it is cheaper rather than more expensive. There are many advantages to this type of a system, and it really isn’t a huge change from how things already work. What it means for you as a consumer is that you have more options. On the other end there are many advantages that the smart grid infrastructure in terms of incorporating different types of generated power. This will increase competition between energy producers and would keep the overall cost of electricity stable. The list of advantages goes on and on, while the list of disadvantages is very short. In your post and in this thread you have failed to mention even one valid disadvantage to implementing smart grid technology.

        • Randy says:

          a mother, what the hell are you on about!? Big Brother raising the price of solar panels? So you have to go with what is supplied??

          You are making absolutely no sense.

        • a mother says:

          It was probably a bad choice of words on my part. What I can forsee is the prices of the alternatives to the smartgrid increasing due to the fact that the people who run electric companies will not want to lose their business thus they will buy out the little guy. It isn’t all that hard for a larger company to take over a smaller company and with the way it’s looking (and your constant references to free market capitalism – funded by rich people to make booku bucks from the middle and lower class – just confirms), the alternatives will get more expensive.
          I don’t want to change my habits or my way of life. I don’t like the idea of making my life harder to make their lives easier. I don’t want to sit down on Monday to plot out for the week when I’m going to do laundry, cook dinner, etc just because they give me a list of when it’ll be cheaper to do so. I also don’t want to be penalized because I chose to do so when everyone else is doing the same. That sounds like a disadvantage to me.
          “You act as if these are going to be draconian measures put into place to regulate your entire life. That’s not the case. You would be provided information with which you could base decisions.” Your first and last sentences almost contradict each other. Regulation caused by the “information with which you could base decisions.”

        • Randy says:

          a mother,

          I understand your concern about the cost of alternatives, thanks for clarifying. What I can say to that is that we have anti trust laws that protect from that sort of anti competitive behavior. We haven’t seen very aggressive enforcement (to put it lightly) in recent years, but they are there, and your concerns are the very reason they are there and should be strictly enforced.

          As far as your other concern, do you think it is fair that other people then, that use electricity that is cheaper to produce, bear some of the cost of the more expensive to produce electricity that you use?

          I also want to clarify something I sense is being misunderstood by several people. The government and the electric companies aren’t going to decide when and by how much rates are going to be raised. That’s what Enron did and it violates a whole slew of laws. The rates will (and to largely already are) based on how much it costs to produce the electricity.

          a mother,

          I bring up free market capitalism because many on this forum, and most folks that self-identify as conservatives seem to think that we should let the markets determine everything in business, without interference. I myself am a fan of a form of capitalism that has regulations that act as checks and balances to keep things fair for competition and consumers, that’s beside the point though. My statements aren’t contradictory because the prices set, and are provided to you very easily using smart grid technology aren’t draconian measures imposed by the government. They are fair market value prices. They are reflected by the supply and demand conditions in the energy market.

        • Blake says:

          Randy, antitrust will mean nothing to this administration- look at how they trashed the bondholders’ contracts with GM and Chrysler in favor of the unions, who should have been at the back of the line.
          Antitrust or any other law is observed by this administration only so long as it suits them.
          A good example is ATT- who was split up, but now has swallowed cingular, sprint, and Southwestern Bell.

        • Randy says:

          Bullshit Blake,

          You can’t tell me that Obama cares nothing about antitrust laws. You are basing that statement on the pending GM bankruptcy, which has nothing to do with monopolizing anything. It has to do with bankruptcy. Which is to say, you have no basis whatsoever to make that statement.

          And you’re wrong. AT&T doesn’t own Sprint, and AT&T only exists in name only now. It was purchased by SBC Communications, which adopted the AT&T name. Southwestern Bell was a “baby bell” that was then reabsorbed after the AT&T monopoly was busted up. None of which happened under the Obama administration.

  5. Blake says:

    You see, I am not against the “smartgrid” per se, but I worry, with reason, about how this administration is going to use the various applications, and how they will twist the law, as they have done in the autos case to favor whatever agenda they want to push through.
    And they will.
    Big Brother is not on the right
    He is on the left.

    • Randy says:

      You mean without reason. It’s good to be concerned and ask questions, but you really aren’t asking questions. You are making unfounded statements.

      • Blake says:

        After all the disingenuous things the administration has done so far, you might not be a little wary about the potential for abuse here? My, you are a trusting soul- I find I must ask the questions to allay my proclivity for apparent paranoia, I guess.
        I am glad you are so assured- I am as yet not so inclined.
        May I inquire, as to your employment? Might it be related to energy? I ask, because when I post about energy or anything related, you always are there in record time, but you have never commented on anything else. One wonders why this issue, and nothing else.

        • Randy says:

          I am an electrical engineer. I can speak to this issue with a good level of credibility. I know I have mentioned that before in recent threads. Right now my employment has more to do with data transmission, which will be a part of smart grid development, but I do want to get more involved with power generation. I have also lived in Chicago for over a decade. I don’t put blind trust in Obama, I am familiar with his politics.

      • Blake says:

        If you have mentioned your employment before, it has slipped my mind, but I suspect that is just a part of life with me now. You are passionate about your subject and argue your case well- you may never totally convince me, but it will not be from lack of effort.

        • Blake says:

          And as for Barama, I am not convinced that he will not change contract law, as well as anything else he sees fit in order to further his agenda. This administration has been more Machiavellian than any other I can remember, and I am older than thought I would ever be- I can remember back to Eisenhower, and Nixon wasn’t this bad.
          So, the Bulls*** comment was wrong- I do have concerns- the fact that his attitude is reflected in the GM thing is just a part of it, and if you can’t see this, you are not looking hard enough.

        • Blake says:

          Also, if SBC communications adopted the ATT name, then it IS ATT- I was however, wrong about Sprint- my bad. At least for now. Who knows who else will be absorbed tomorrow?

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