I have been involved in "smart Grid" technology for 17 years.
There are very few installed smart meters with remote disconnect option. Reason: it adds a great deal of cost to unit, with for very little usage(value).
And the risk of what can be done with "hacked" meters is no more than what is already done with old meters that typically erred on the side of the consumer Power companies have already "lost" billions in revenue...on paper anyway.
Lost revenue is mis-leading, any real losses are built into billing rate. Reason: most power companies have defined profits by regulating agencies for their area. Result: until recently, Power companies do not have much incentive to actually be more efficient and/or bill accurately.
And cost to read meters .. for my small town .. $250,000 a year - for insurance alone! (cost of people's dogs biting meter readers). Plus the cost of wages/trucks/office support, etc.. It is significant.
The largest part of one's electric bill .. goes to infrastructure (fixed cost).. not fuel (base on usage). There are numerous proposals "out there" .. trying to make billing reflect this reality. Do people really believe that if EVERYONE uses less electricity, their electric bill will be significantly reduced? (that's just crazy talk!).. At best, those that are first to use less power will have smaller power bill, but after EVERYONE uses less power.. everyone will pay the same to cover the infrastructure costs.
If we are to use the existing infrastructure most effectively, controlling peak power delivery is required. The primary tool for doing this, is social engineering via monetary incentives. For the next 10 years , it will be much cheaper to cover society's needs this way compared to building more infrastructure. And most companies can't (won't?) project the future beyond 5 years with any accuracy.
Real value to "smart grid"....
If we are going to make our grid more robust.. we will need better monitoring and control. THIS is the biggest security issue - not terrorist. The cost related to blackouts is very, very high. In both lives and $.
The silliest concern yet on smart meters..
"radiation" from meters. Just what do people think the meter is monitoring? a large web of radiating elements (power wires) throughout their home!.. and a new meter is that typically transmits at a level tens of thousands of times smaller, for a few milliseconds each day, THIS is their big concern? Really?
What next? shoot people waking by their house talking on their cell phone?
I live in the Los Angeles area. Southern California Edison installed the smart meters in my area earlier this year. They promised us a way to monitor our usage on-line. That has yet to happen. If it happens, I can envision someone writing an application to ping the meter every 15 minutes and attempting to create a usage history to compare with the utility bill. Who would win that battle? Will the utilities give us a log of usage by hour, day, week?
While I see the concept of smart meters, I cannot help but feel that the time-of-day billing will be a nightmare for consumers. We can have a long hot(!) spell when electricity usage and demand goes through the roof. I can't wait to see a bill after one of those periods.
Yes, the utilities have to sell the consumer on the 'benefits' of a smart meter. I don't really see any consumer benefit. This is along the same lines as paperless billing. While I don't really like to waste paper, nobody is giving me any sort of discount for paperless billing or auto-pay (for that matter). Let them send me a bill. Because of the refund of a deposit and the subsequent crediting of that deposit to several months statements, I got a bill of $0.57. Damn right, I paid it with a check. Maximum inconvenience for a stupid statment.
The Chinese cannot wait until the U.S. has wide-scale deployment of Smart meters. They are a security vulnerability (perhaps not so much today, but the meter stays put while the security hacks grow in sophistication). And if you think this can be managed by remote upgrades of the firmware, well, that works both ways.
Even in the industrial space, the ability to monitor energy usage is a first step and you'd think that new smart meters could be part of that. Control is still a way out into the future, given the speed we're moving at the moment. I thought the Google Powermeter service was interesting (http://www.google.com/powermeter/about/) but now the service has been "retired". This page does reference a study by CenterPoint Energy Inc. and the Department of Energy found that 71% of customers reported changing their energy consumption as a result of accessing energy data through in-home displays.
But wouldn't the monitoring help in terms of lowering utility expenses? I thought that was part of the appeal of the smart grid. If you know my usage patterns, you might be able route me more effectively to cheaper, alternative energy sources or something that will reduce my monthly bill. No??
John, the smart meters should detect reversal of current if the customer is sending juice back to the power company. Smart meters should be able to deal customers having solar generation and wind turbines.
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