From the Homefront: Fight against Smart Grid waste of money
By Bob Fischer email@example.com January 4, 2012 4:38PM
Updated: February 7, 2012 8:11AM
I dislike unnecessary spending. Of course, necessity is in the eye of the beholder, and one person’s need is another’s folly. I also am not overly fond of others spending my money — particularly when the benefit to me is unclear. Finally, while I get perturbed about government spending, the money disbursed is by or on behalf of elected representatives. This open government checkbook is part of the cost of living in a society that has not devolved into anarchy.
The above is a prelude to a simple statement — I am very unhappy about how some of my tax dollars are being spent. The project in question: Naperville Smart Grid. The cause of my unhappiness: interference, supposedly on behalf of the citizenry, by self-styled community protectors who have chosen to add costs to local government through their federal lawsuits and unnecessary referendums. These unwanted speed bumps are being thrown across the inevitable highway to the future.
I agree with Smart Grid detractors that consumer payback from reduced consumption after Smart Meter implementation is hard to quantify. Putting aside all of the feel-good environmental rhetoric, smart meters are being deployed for one primary reason — to enable time-of-day billing for electrical power. “Smart meters” really aren’t all that smart! They simply have the ability to tell time, and report how much power is being used during a given finite period. The existing “analog” meters measure power consumption over a period of time as well. Unfortunately, rather than transmitting minute-by-minute consumption figures, a meter reader needs to eyeball the dials and determine how much power was consumed since the last backyard visit.
Given the economics of power generation, electricity delivered during high demand periods is more costly. Equipment used to meet peak loads is less cost efficient than that providing “normal” capacity, and so the price goes up. Historical models average out these peaks and valleys into a blended rate. The new smart meters will enable billing more closely aligned with time sensitive costs of production. Monthly or bi-monthly meter reader views of existing meters do not differentiate consumption on a hot July afternoon from power used in the nighttime hours when peak load generators are off line.
Assigning costs to sources of demand, and creating an infrastructure to enable this data collection, are why smart meters are needed. Quite simply, it’s about making sure individual users pay their fair share. Peak hour charges should not be pushed off to neighbors who have learned to shift demand to lower cost hours. If individuals choose to use the more costly power, they should not expect subsidies from more efficient users.
Wasting tax dollars on lawsuits to temporarily derail the inevitable does not seem particularly sensible. Time-of-day billing for electricity is coming, and we need an infrastructure to enable this technological leap. This is a capability we need to build, not destroy, and having federal funds to help pay our local costs is a bonus too good to miss.
Bob Fischer at firstname.lastname@example.org.