"What the smart meters will do is allow utilities to charge much more for power when people want it the most." I wholeheartedly agree, William K. Call me cynical, but I can't imagine my electric bill decreasing because of the presence of smart meters.
The concept of increasing capacity to handle the ever bigger peaks is fundamentally deffective in one major area, which it neglects the demand for maximum return on the investment in the system. The result is that if we double the generating capacity, policy will demand that sales should rise to utilize that capacity all the time. That is how the maximizing of ROI works in the real world. Investors will not stand for expensive generating capacity not producing income. So the concept of expanding to fit the load assures that the load will always grow.
What the smart meters will certainly do is allow the utilities to charge much more for power when people want it the most. This will benefit the utilitie's stockholders and be hard on those who are not rich.
Two things are urgently needed, which the first is a means to quickly disconnect those areas that suffer some system failure before they cause a system collapse such as the last one. The finer the granularity of the disconnection ability the fewer will be affected by the catastrophic faults. The other urgent need is a means to ration power consumption during overload periods. Cutting off the air conditioning power for 15 minutes out of each hour will not hurt anyone, but it would be an immediate reduction in usage, and it could solve problems. Of course, to be the most effective it would need to cover all the users, not just a few of them. That is where the smart meters could come in, except that none of the meters that I am aware of include means for interrupting service. So another generation of smart meters would need to be produced and installed. That would be a quite extensive capital outlay, I think.
Arcs...Not just environmentalists driving the issue.
When everyone's home Air Conditioning kicks in in the afternoon (I am in southwest), the peak demand can cause overloading of the transmission lines. Options: 1, build more/bigger transmission lines (everyone wants additional high tension lines in their neighborhood) 2, add natural gas fueled generators to kick in closer to load (and everyone wants a power generator in their neighborhood) 3, let the power brown out or shut down.
I don't think the objections involved will be coming exclusively from environmentalists.
Existing transmission lines are already maxed out. ( I don't see them making economic sense of super conductor lines for the hundreds of miles our lines run).
And when the additional natural gas generator kicks in.. According to my sources in the power company.. a minimum of $250,000 is spent, just to cover 15 minutes of peak demand - covering a limited area of a city.
If they don't turn on the additional peak generating source BEFORE the peak .. they risk a brown out or worst. So they are constantly playing chicken (will the peak subside before exceeding present capacity?) on summer afternoons.
A private home's consumption may be only a " pimple" but they add up! And it is the only load they can influence. Nearly everything else (commercial, industrial) has little ability to control their peak power demands.
The additional transmission lines.. the most expensive option.
Distributed Gas generators less expensive ... but not by much (have to get LARGE NG lines to the site).. effectively laying gas lines to delivery energy instead of high tension lines.
No easy answers everyone can agreed to.
and yes.. none of the answers will reduce your electric bill.
Anyone thinking there is an option that will reduce their costs of having electricity, is in denial. We (in US) are accustomed to cheap power, it will never be that cheap again.
Thinking_J's post is very good. It points out what I believe to be the most serious issue: our governments, bending to the environmentlists, don't want to build any more power plants. We will now "shape" the load by extracting significant costs for consuming electricity at inconvenient times. What nonsense.
While the grid could me more robust through instrumentation and monitoring, that benefit is really at the T&D level. Monitoring my house is a pimple on the back end of the electrical infrastructure elephant.
And I agree the R.F. concern is totally off base. These people are probably complaining to their utility on their cell phone.
You're absolutely correct, Beth, one of the key theoretical advantages of the smart grid is its ability to enable us to use power more intelligently, at more cost-effective times. Call me cynical, though. I just have a feeling that the utilities' savings will be used in other ways, and the trickledown from the smart grid will somehow miss me.
On an historical note, the first electricity meters used the electrochemical deposition of a metal (zinc) onto an electrode as a way to measure current. The higher the current, the more metal got deposited. For more information, run a Google search for "zinc edison meter electricity" but without the quotes. You'll find several good articles about how electricity metering got started. In the beginning, Edison charged by the lamp.
For many years in this country.. electricity wasn't metered at all (except for industrial users)
In many countries today.. electricity isn't metered (on homes)
Reason why: because it isn't related to the electric billing.
If all electricity was solar or wind generated.. you would have a similar electric bill. Reason: infrastructure costs would be about the same.
Reason for metering: same as reason for padlocks - social engineering.
For padlocks.. to encourage honest people to remain ... honest.
For electric meters...to keep people from being wasteful with a resource. (you waste/use more than your neighbor - you pay more than your neighbor). People tend to waste a resource if there is no penalty for being wasteful.
If there were no metering.. the world would not come to an end. Your electric bill (on average) would remain the same.
Smart meters = additional level of monitoring for additional level of social engineering ( to control peak power usage).. So we don't have to pay for additional infrastructure to handle higher peaks.
Hydro One in Ontario, Canada, privides bills that separate delivery from cost of electricity. Unfortunately even if they don't deliver any electricity, you still get billed for it. I know people who have summer cottages in Ontario and they pay about $10 for electricity during summer vacation and then $100+ per quarter for delivery when they're not there.
Any meter (or anything else for that matter) which can be upgraded remotely must be locked down fairly tightly.
HP printers are going through that tightening up process because of the ability to download malicious firmware. I think it was an overheating fuser proof of concept that got HP to tighten up firmware update processes for printers.
It may or may not be the Chinese. All we can see for certain is that many attacks appear to come from that nation, no absolute proof.
Design engineers need to prepare for a future in which their electronic products will use not just one or two, but possibly many user interfaces that involve touch, vision, gestures, and even eye movements.
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