Wednesday, March 28, 2012

What's wrong with Smart Meters

The purpose of the "smart meter" idea is to stabilize demand, and attempt to allow all power plants to run at close to capacity all the time, since plants are expensive to build, and the owners hate to see them idle.

The "smart" strategy, to achieve this goal, is to price electricity by the minute rather than by the month: have a rate plan under which the price of electricity goes up as demand goes up, and goes down as demand goes down. A rising price will tend shed demand and reduce peaking, while falling prices will tend to attract load and fill the valleys: crate a rate plan that enough customers will subscribe to to help match demand to the supply.

The customer modifies his usage in accordance with the minute-by-minute rate in his rate plan. One rate plan may be based on historical demand, and the customer may only need to avoid known peak periods. Another plan may set the price according to real-time demand. No one will know the rates in advance. These customers may use their computers to regulate their electric use.

For either type of rate plan, the meter needs to keep track of actual usage each minute, but that's all.

The example often given with the "smart meter" presentation is that the electric company can turn off your electric water heater during peak demand, and "you will never even notice". This assumes that you have an electric hot water heater, which you don't. Possibly there will be a program to get everyone to use electric hot water heaters...
This is what is wrong with smart meters.

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