Thursday, November 8, 2012

Californians may end up driving the wrong way...

One of the joys of growing up around British cars is the occasional "home market" example that makes its way into the US, constructed for driving on the left.  Unless you work for the post office, you probably have never experienced the dislocation that occurs when driving a right-hand-drive car in the U.S.

A recent FERC decision seems to have cleared the way for a California PUC decision that could have California electric vehicles driving (or recharging) the wrong way, a market dislocation that may have grave consequences for EVs in California and elsewhere.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Sandy does some good for Smart Grid...

I good friend of mine named Sandy did a lot of important and creative work that moved Smart Grid forward in the areas of cybersecurity and interoperability.  She has since moved on to other areas of work, and I really miss working with her (and the snarky comments we sometimes shared during presentations that had a high verbiage-to-content ratio).

If you know her, you know who I'm talking about.  If you are her, well, drop me a note sometime, OK?

But this is about a different Sandy, the one that's been in the news lately.  The one that has given us a welcome respite from the political campaign news.  (Hey, I live in Ohio.  The "swing state of swing states".  This year, we're under a rather impressive barrage of campaign, uh...um... material.  But I digress...)

Monday, October 15, 2012

A quiet revolution...

Last week, a small group of executives and engineers from utilities, appliance manufacturers, standards groups, electronics manufacturers, consumer representatives and the Federal government met to start figuring out how to answer the question: How do we have a standard way of interfacing between the different systems on the Utility side of the Meter, and the different systems on the Customer side of the meter?

Thursday, October 4, 2012

It's not about logic or facts, folks!

Once again, the "Smart meters are killing us!" crowd is at it again.  This time in Massachusetts, where a group calling itself "Halt MA Smart Meters" (HMASM? Not exactly a catchy acronym, folks) is claiming "meters use pulsed, wireless (cellular), high frequency communication, a recently recognized carcinogen."

A few weeks ago, I witnessed someone in a coffee shop talking on their cellphone, and using the shop's free Wi-Fi to update their anti-smart-meter website.  While he was at it, he was using his phone's GPS to update his Facebook status with his location.

Does anyone else see the disconnect here?

I think this points up (yet again) that the objections to Smart Meters isn't really about the RF, or cancer risk, or privacy, or anything else even remotely similar.

It's about perception and choice.

It's about choice because people don't believe that they have a choice in the matter.  It's about perception because when people feel something is being forced upon them, it is perceived as evil.

"It can't be good, because if it were good, they'd be giving me a choice about it."

Believe it or not, it isn't illogical, it is, however based on certain assumptions about the world that many people don't realize they have made.

We could try to educate, but that will be seen as propaganda.

We could try to make comparisons to other devices that people use every day that are more dangerous than Smart meters, but that doesn't address the underlying assumptions behind the "force = evil / choice = good" dichotomy.

So, how do we get out of this?  Simple: Don't push.  Pull.

Pull?  Yup, pull.  How did Facebook become so wildly popular, even among those who worry about Smart Meters violating their privacy?  How does Apple sell giga-units of devices barely changed from the previous version within hours of product launch?

By providing something that people want, and are willing to give up assumptions in order to get.

How do you create a pull for AMI?
  • Start with a pledge, before you ever even talk to your PUC about AMI, along the lines of Google's famous (and now somewhat strained) "Don't be evil."  
    • Keep it simple and straightforward, to wit: "We do not and will not gather, hold, or process data that isn't used to either bill you for the services you buy, keep those services reliable, or restore those services when they are out." Those are pretty much the rules you have to abide by now, anyway.  
    • Stick to it and prove you mean it.  Tell people who ask, in as much detail as they can tolerate, exactly what information you have, and how and why it is used.
  • Talk to your customers and the PUC about services and tariffs in that provide a real advantage to the customer.  Give the customer something they want.  
    • Access to data?  Let them have it, it's their data anyway.  (Don't believe me? Check the NAESB REQ Business Practices.)  Mention that you could do even better with AMI in place.
    • Better pricing for certain patterns of service? Do it.  Mention that you could offer even more innovative pricing with AMI.
    • Home automation? Work to get it into the stores where people can buy it.  (Don't provide it yourself, that will raise the "Why are they doing this? suspicions.)
    • In short, find out what people want, then as Jean Luc Picard might say "Make it so."
  • THEN (and ONLY then) roll out a Smart Meter installation project.  But be coy about it.  Make it a limited availability opt-in.  Only so many people per quarter, based on what you can afford to do without hiring outside contractors.
By designing your AMI implementation with "social pull" you'll likely have fewer detractors, and a happier customer base.  As I've said before, Utilities are going to need to think in terms of customers, rather than ratepayers.

Next week, I'll have some more news on a quiet revolution that's beginning, that will make creating a "pull" for AMI even easier.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The latest Solar Storm (of junk reporting...)

Well, Reuters, that bastion of scientific accuracy has done it again. </irony>

Citing a National Academy of Sciences report on the potential damage from Solar Storms, Reuters reported last week that "A monster blast of geomagnetic particles from the sun could destroy 300 or more of the 2,100 high-voltage transformers that are the backbone of the U.S. electric grid..."

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Public Comment Periods

Public comment periods are afoot for two significant Smart Grid standards:

Monday, July 23, 2012

Elasticity isn't rigid... (with update)

It's been a while since I've posted (again) and I promise to get better about regular activity.  However, some things have gotten my attention lately.

At a recent meeting, I heard someone in a position of responsibility over electric rates repeat the old saw that “electric demand does not vary with price.”  To use the economic-egghead terminology “electricity is price-inelastic.”  I was proud of myself for only convulsing mildly. 

I am here to tell you that this is flat-out wrong. 

“Electricity is not price elastic” is an oft-repeated old saw, not because it is true, but because it is an oft-repeated old saw.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

EVs or not EVs, that is the Question...

Okay, I've been "off the air" for a while.  Busy with some new projects since last October, and I'm still pretty busy, but an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer got my attention.

The Philadelphia Inquirer published an article this week covering the PA PUC's consideration of "alternative fuel" vehicles (i.e. Electric and Natural Gas) and their effect on Utility Systems.  A couple of paragraphs from that article are interesting:

"Terry Boston, chief executive of PJM Interconnection Inc., the regional grid operator, said that if a million electric vehicles had attempted to tap into the mid-Atlantic system on a hot day similar to last July 21, when the grid labored under record loads, a massive blackout would have occurred.
...
But the distribution system could accommodate 25 million vehicles if smart-grid controls were installed — they’re currently in the works — and all vehicles were remotely synchronized to recharge between midnight and 7 a.m., when there is an abundance of generation capacity.

Time-of-use rates, which allow suppliers to price electricity hourly to encourage customers to shift loads to discounted off-peak hours, would help manage a more efficient use of the electrical system, the experts said. Pennsylvania utilities are currently mandated to devise hourly-rate options for customers who want them." [emphasis mine]

OK, campers.  Here's a question for you:
Why is it that time-of-use rates are just dandy for getting customers to shift loads to off-peak hours, but if the load is an electric vehicle it has to be remotely synchronized?

Friday, January 6, 2012

Took longer to settle down than I had thought...

Well, towards the end of last October I said I would be back to blogging when things settled down.  It took longer than I had thought.

One of the things that's still percolating is the SGIP Governing Board Category 3 (Consumers) election.  Still stuck in a 3-way tie between yours truly, Mike Coop and Larry Kotewa. 

There's a similar logjam in Category 9 (Independent Power Producers)

If you represent an eligible group or company, for pity's sake, vote!