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ESC asks: is the smart grid a little too smart for your own good?

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re: ESC asks: is the smart grid a little too smart for your own good?
anon9303122   4/8/2010 2:47:09 PM
Smart grid won't save energy. More efficient loads (and fewer of them) will save the most energy. What it will save is the use of expensive-to-operate peaking units, typically natural gas fired turbines. Those fire up and shut down fairly quickly saving the utility money. The single cycle gas turbine is somewhat less efficient (from an energy standpoint) compared to a combined cycle coal burning plant, but coal is much cheaper on a BTU basis. I'm concerned that proponents of smart grid are hyping up the smart grid thing sooooooo much that the consumer is bound to be disappointed by the likely modest (if any) savings seen at the consumer level. The concept isn't very new however. For the six years or so, Baltimore Gas and Electric (BGE) already does that with air conditioning units. For a monthly rebate ($10 only during cooling months), you can agree to put a remotely controlled switch on your outside unit for central air, that allows BGE to cycle off your compressor during periods of peak loads. I have one and I am indifferent about it. There was one year however where BGE had it turned off for about five continuous hours on a 95+ humid afternoon. That little episode nearly had me cancelling the service. I do try to run my electric dryer later at night in deference to peak loads. It would be nice if appliance manufacturers would allow you "schedule" use, like at 2 AM start time for the dryer so you can go to bed. This is not a new concept though. Back in my childhood (60's-70's), I recalled that my house in Hingham, Mass had an 80 gallon electric hot water tank. The lower heating element was on a separate electric meter that was timed only to operate during off-peak hours with electric rates much, much less than the other meter. 80 gallons was generally enough for hot water usage and then it would re-heat the following night. If you did use more for some reason, the top element would kick in anytime needed on the standard circuit. Hingham had a municipal electric cooperative and managed to snag really good deals on off-peak power and pass the savings along to the consumer through the use of off-peak metering. The point of all this is that this is nothing new. Another thing is that we should approach this with caution because there exists all kinds of unintended consequences if we barrel head-long into this smart grid stuff. The people who really stand to gain from this are the utility companies because it will delay the requirement to add new capacity to accomodate the inevitable growth. I seriously doubt the consumer will see any significant savings from this exercise as we level out our loads for the convenience of the utilities. Anecdotally, I have heard that some people with "Smart Meters" installed had their electric costs skyrocket due to demand related pricing structures. Wait a minute, I thought they were supposed to serve us, the customer??? Welcome to the next phase of the self-service age.

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