Re: "What if a Russian hack-athon brought down 20 million U.S. homes..."
Scenario: It's a cool spring Saturday morning. New neighbors with teenage kids move in next door...
Circa 1956: "I hope they don't put a baseball through my window."
1976: "I hope they don't play their music loud late at night."
1996: "I hope they don't sell crack out of their garage."
2006: "I hope they don't piggyback on my WiFi and download bad stuff."
2016: "I hope they don't hack my house."
Am I a cynic or a realist? I can't always tell.
I would like to add my own view of this issue.
Point one: The conventional wisdom going around about the smart grid is wrong.
Point two: Significant smart grid money is at the home.
In support of point one; the current conversation is going on primarily between those with a vested interest in the current power distribution system. My view is that solutions developed by them seek to reproduce the current system using the smart grid components and concepts.
In support of point two; smart grid components and concepts allow for savings to the system which are not anticipated by the current legacy design but the savings accrue to participants who have viewed the power grid in terms of a cost to be minimized. Recasting the vision to include the home as both a source and consumer of power is called for.
Smart Grid concept whilst exciting is at its infancy and based on research to date I agree with Khosla. Viability of the copper line for transmission of data sounds exciting. The current infrastructure of the National Grid fails to live up to expectations. That said the security of the national grid needs to be dealt with new approach to transmission protocols and hostile nature of power line has been discussed, researched and published in international Symposiums for over 16 years but yet we are still waiting to see one commonly agreed standard that can be adopted for communication over power line.
Power electronics related aspects of the smart grid needs to be revisited with fresh approach to their design and power line characterises impedance be addressed from the security aspects. Using the power line for meter reading is one thing, or using the in-house intelligent devices for saving electricity etc are good news and are all designed and readily available but for any other expectations new security protocols need to be addressed this needs huge investments. New smart grid and its ubiquitous nature can easily be manipulated by hackers etc, if we overcome all obstacles we are still faced dealing with noise of the power line channel which was never designed for communication but only for transmission of electricity.
Imagine a scenario; Smart hackers from the comfort of their country could interfere with national grid using power line for sending signals and subsequently cuts off the electrics to say part of London, domino effect of this sudden loss of power transmission could cause tripping nuclear reactors, and subsequent multiple issues to hospitals traffics, national security, Need I go on?
You need to separate the VC from the real issues e.g. massive under-investment in grid infrastructure resulted in major brown-outs. The famous CA cases were caused by 50 year old current limiters which didn't limit.
The drive to connect renewables sources to grids has been the main driver in upgrading technology, legislation and so on.
Cudos to Khosla to state that smart meters will not do much for consumers! Finally someone said it loud and clear while most people believe the opposite. My electric bill is $30 a month, 10 to 20% cost savings is laughable, one or two coffees at best (and I drink three a day ;-)...better smart grid infrastructure has to benefit utility not the consumer! Kris
Money Talks...if usage goes up and cost goes up...people will use less, fancy meter not required.
Capacity is the most costly/important need.
Unless there is more investment in nuclear or similar high-power/high-reliability systems, all this monkeying around with power meter won't matter....However, it will be a while until electric cars take off, so that gives us a decade or so to invest in more infrastructure capacity.
So-called smart meters have been in use for decades. Only recently has the terminology been changed from "realtime demand billing". It's been field-proven at large institutions for at least 20 years. What's different now is that the power companies see an incentive to move it into residential. Khosla may be right, but the power companies are fiercely resistant to interoperability standards. Govt stimulus money may be the only way to get them to the table.
Although real-time monitoring does have its uses for detecting faults or unintended appliances left on, to achieve substantial energy savings at the homeowner level is more an issue of replacing less efficient appliances with more efficient ones, whether those are 'smart' or not.
Replace old A/C units with brand-new high-efficiency units, which also have the benefit of using a more eco-friendly refrigerant. Replace incandescent bulbs with CCFL's wherever possible. Replace old CRT TV sets with modern LCD sets, and so on. These types of appliance upgrades add up to a substantial savings in electricity usage, which also translates into dollars saved -- whether anyone is monitoring the usage of individual appliances or not.
I just want to weigh in that the smart meters that are being sold to consumers are great for the utilities. The meters allow the utility to know if the power to a consumer is off. So that is better than the current situation. But the sales pitch that the smart meter can help a consumer reduce usage is sketchy at best. There are monitors on the market that cost less than a smart meter and will give a consumer real time feedback on their usage. So while there are real advantages to having smart meters, I think we need to be realistic in what benefits they provide to the consumer versus the cost consumers are being asked to pay.