Power Savings of Smart Meters Prove Slow to Materialize

[Note:  This item comes from friend Bob Frankston.  DLH]

From: “Bob Frankston” <bob19-0501@bobf.frankston.com>
Subject: Power Savings of Smart Meters Prove Slow to Materialize – NYTimes.com
Date: December 6, 2014 at 9:41:11 EST

But the dishwashers, air-conditioners, water heaters and other electric appliances that would automatically take signals from the meter are still to come, leaving consumers to manually manage their energy consumption.

Another reminder of how much the whole IoT thing is full magical thinking as we try to address system problems with a combination of press releases and a command and control mindset. At least the power companies are succeed in their quest to save money by not having to hire as many people to read meters – a cost now transferred to the rest of society.

Power Savings of Smart Meters Prove Slow to Materialize
By MATTHEW L. WALD
Dec 5 2014
<http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/06/business/energy-environment/power-savings-of-smart-meters-prove-slow-to-materialize.html>

The end is in sight for the meter reader, who each month faithfully tramps through the flower beds or into the basement, flashlight and clipboard in hand, to record electricity use.

They are being phased out because tens of millions of new meters talk directly to the electric company. The meters can record use by the hour, changing the price as the market changes and telling the customer — or maybe even the appliances themselves — the best time to buy energy.

But this is not happening. Although the goal is to shift consumption to off-peak hours when cheaper, cleaner electricity is available, experts say it is still many years away, despite billions in federal subsidies that have helped finance the switch to the so-called smart grid.

Analysts say that most customers, and public service commissions, are simply not ready for the change to what is known as dynamic pricing, which is intended to benefit the whole system by reducing demand during peak hours.

The idea is that as prices rise on summer afternoons or fall in the middle of the night, customers will learn to tailor their consumption — like running a dishwasher or washing machine, or charging an electric car — during times of better pricing.

It is a strategy that will become increasingly important as more wind turbines and solar panels are connected, and produce electricity without any relationship to the level of demand.

So far, though, industry and government officials, along with a few environmentalists, are pointing to a variety of other, smaller benefits from a number of smart grid innovations around the country.

For example, the new meters allow electric companies to remotely transfer an account from one name to another when a family moves, or cut off service for nonpayment, all from a central office, just as the phone companies do. And they can tell a utility that the electricity is out even when there is no one home to report that.

But the dishwashers, air-conditioners, water heaters and other electric appliances that would automatically take signals from the meter are still to come, leaving consumers to manually manage their energy consumption.

“The smart meter giving people real-time access to price information is not going to make them get up in the middle of the night and turn their dishwasher on,” said John P. Hughes, the vice president for technical affairs at the Electricity Consumers Resource Council, a consumer group that represents mostly large industrial users. “Getting the enabling technology to do that is going to take a long time.”

There are exceptions, of course. Illinois has about 25,000 households on the program, less than 1 percent of those eligible, and some of them save 20 percent on their bills, said Anne Evens, chief executive of Elevate Energy, which administers the real-time pricing program for Commonwealth Edison and Ameren-Illinois. Her company will send texts when prices rise above certain levels. It gives some customers a digital meter that it calls a Joule that displays the price down to the tenth of a cent. In an experiment, it controls when some electric cars recharge.

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