a problem with electric meters?

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TXU (in Texas) claims that a smart thermostat they sell communicates with the smart meter and allows you (via their web page) or them to shut off your A/C for what they claim will be 15 to 45 minutes during peak load periods. It's been available for at least a year. I don't have one so I haven't seen it work, or know how often the turnoff is used. But customers can (have to?) use the web page to program the thermostat, so the remote setting ability has to work even if it's not used against the wishes of the customer (yet).
I have seen working the web page that shows you readings of consumption every 15 minutes, with the latest reading 24-48 hours old. (In other words, on day X at 12:01AM, the readings for day X-2 appear).

The load center is inside each smart appliance. If it's got some sort of electronic timer or thermostat it has to have a way for a low-power signal to switch the heavy-power-consumption part on and off anyway. Or, in the case of heating/air conditioning, inside the smart web-enabled thermostat. The smart meter here is being used as a communication interface.
A smart METER can also act as a communications conduit between your electric company and your appliances (many of these meters in the USA use Zigbee radio for the last hop) and therefore let the electric company tell your appliances to shut off. The same applies to the smart thermostat that they are selling, but it can also not only turn it on or off, but change the temperature setting.
TXU also has a portion on its smart meter web page where you can register up to 5 "HAN" (Home Area Network) devices associated with your meter. I'd love to see a sample of what people with these devices can get on the web page.
I'm *hoping* that there is a little security in this, so the electric company won't talk (via smart meter) to any devices on your meter besides the ones with the MAC addresses you have registered. It also lets you claim your devices and the guy in the apartment next door (with the meter 1 foot from yours on the outside wall) claim his. That's no protection against something that passively listens, though. I'm also pretty sure that there's something in the design that allows the electric company to see any HAN device broadcasting data close to the meter, registered or not.
Apparently by registering the device, you can get statistics from that device - run times, perhaps even power used, integrated into the web page. Of course, the electric company gets these also. You get to give the device a "friendly" name like "clothes washer", "bedroom AC window unit" or whatever. I suspect that the HAN interface includes something that allows asking "what are you?" and getting back device type, manufacturer, model, version, and other info. That's been available for USB, PCI, and lots of other computer peripherals for years.

It doesn't really do that much good unless the individual home owners *KNOW* about the changing prices and *REACT* to it. If you make it too confusing, they won't. Certain proposals for traffic-load-sensitive tolls on toll roads have this problem. I haven't heard anything definite (there should be signs at the entrance to the toll road) indicating that the per-mile toll charge is less than the value of the pink slip on my car.

I wonder what TXU would do if someone, or a few people, started abusing the hell out of this: they spend 8 hours of "night" charging batteries (free), and disconnect after that, then spend 16 hours of "day" using no grid power and discharging the batteries. (There's still a customer charge of something like $5, so the monthly bill won't quite be zero). Would they object, or encourage them?

I believe the local *water* utility has done this. They may still have to drive down the street once a month.

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NotMe wrote:

See?
I told you so.
I told you people that these new smart-meters are costing home-owners an extra $250 - $500 over the course of the life of the meter, while conveying a $100 benefit in manpower cost-reduction to the utilities. That's why it's a false economy.
If given the choice, I'd gladly make a one-time $100 payment to my utility to pay for meter-reading for the next 10 years if it meant that they didn't tack on an extra $5 a month for the "privledge" or "benefit" of a smart meter.

It's coming.
Mark my words - smart gas meters are coming. And they'll spin some crock-of-shit argument for the need for time-of-use metering for natural gas as the reason why it's needed for the residential market, when they (just like the electric utilities) just want to reduce their meter-reading costs - and not much else.

Smart meters are more expensive - and have about half the life of conventional analog wheel meters.
But those pesky software companies will charge utilites a fortune for "needed" updates for the billing software for these smart meters. It's a cash-cow for them too.
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read by 3 meter readers before the smart hydro and remote water meters were installed. Waterloo North Hydro, Union Gas, and City of Waterloo for Water.
I believe Kitchener had only one or 2 - as water and gas were both Kitchener Utilities, while electric was Kitchener Wilmot Hydro
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snipped-for-privacy@snyder.on.ca wrote:

Where I am (a relatively large city near you) we have (or - had) 2 meter readers.
One for electicity and water, and one for gas. Our electicity and water are billed on the same bill.
Our water meters were changed last year and now they are read via some sort of RF/wireless radio link (not quite sure how that works). So now, nobody comes by to read either the electricity or the water.
I think it was a dumb/stupid idea to do that for water, since we still have union gas doing manual meter-reading so why not simply combine that (ie - have the same person read both the gas and water meters).
Now, here's another twist on this issue of remote meter reading:
It's been said that "facility monitoring" is (or was) a BIG part of having someone come by to read the meters.
In other words, when a human is coming by to read a meter every month, what they're also accomplishing is making sure that nobody has tampered with the meter or the hook-up.
So utilities that have switched to smart-meters to reduce manpower costs still have to deploy people to check on the equipment and hookups from time to time.
Again, smart meters = false economy.
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Gordon Burditt wrote:

The answer to that depends on how your electricity infrastructure is constructed on a corporate level.
Some (or many, or most?) utilities just maintain a local distribution grid and don't actually generate any power themselves - they just purchase power for re-distribution to their customers.
The north-american power grid is large enough, and diverse enough, to be about to (a) always have spare capacity somewhere on the grid, and (b) be able to move that spare capacity around so it gets to those that need it, when they need it.
The free market (such as it is) has resulted in new, privately-owned/operated plants (mostly powered by natural gas) to be built and connected to the grid to supply "peak" demand power when and where needed. And the owners are compensated accordingly by charging very high rates.
I've never bought into the idea that there wasn't (or wouldn't be) enough electricity supply to meet demand. At least not in eastern part of north-america.
Now, perhaps there have been issues with there not being enough wire (or big-enough wire) to carry this demand, but that's a different story.

Regardless who builds new plants: If the premis is that these costs ARE ALWAYS FULLY RECOUPED during operation (and then result in a profit for the owner/operator) - then what you just said doesn't make any sense.
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On 5/27/2012 8:59 AM, Home Guy wrote: ...

Well, if you force enough large-scale generation (coal-fired baseload plants) offline at one time owing to onerous regulation it's quite possible there won't be sufficient time to have alternative generation online to provide the necessary margins for peak loading.
So much of the recent additions to the grid is non-reliable sourced (wind/solar) so there's a pretty large risk.
IMO the use of natural gas, while currently plentiful, for central-station generation is an egregious error in judgment for the longer term.
--
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dpb wrote:

I agree, because natural gas should be used for residential / commercial heating in the winter - not to generate electricity to run air conditioners in the summer.
Because when the natural gas runs low (10 years, 50 years from now) there's going to be a calamity to try to figure out how to keep people warm in the winter...
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On 5/27/2012 12:12 PM, snipped-for-privacy@att.bizzzzzzzzzzzz wrote: ...

And if the C-sequestration people are intent on actually accomplishing something, nuclear is even better (just to light the fuse :) ).
Besides heating, NG is extremely valuable as a chemical/fertilizer feedstock as well.
--


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One word: "plastics"
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Please explain the existence of "rolling blackouts", then. It happened in Texas during both peak load times in the summer, and in the winter when the excuse was that some of the plants on standby had some equipment freeze or fail when they were needed.
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If you get a chance, please read the book "1984" by George Orwell. It explains a bit about the constant shortages, and why the system can't meet everyone's needs.
Christopher A. Young Learn more about Jesus www.lds.org .

Please explain the existence of "rolling blackouts", then. It happened in Texas during both peak load times in the summer, and in the winter when the excuse was that some of the plants on standby had some equipment freeze or fail when they were needed.
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Gordon Burditt wrote:

You did not quote the following paragraph which was part of the same post:
-------- Now, perhaps there have been issues with there not being enough wire (or big-enough wire) to carry this demand, but that's a different story. --------

Texas is doing strange things when it comes to power.
There's a town in Texas that has a huge battery building (molten sodium battery). The battery is charged during off-peak time, and then feeds power into the town's grid during peak demand. The single power line supplying power to the town is not large enough to supply the power the town needs during peak demand, and instead of beefing up the line or adding a second line, they built this battery at about half the cost.
Where else in the US besides Texas is having rolling blackouts during the past year or two?
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On 5/28/2012 8:55 AM, Home Guy wrote:

CA? I believe I recall.
TX is also not very well connected to the rest of the US grid so if they do have a problem they don't have much in the way of interconnects to make up the difference.
There are always the occasional "gotcha's" -- during the cold streak spoken of earlier, it was an unusual event and did cause some plants to either go offline or not be available owing to freezing of lines that simply weren't designed for the issue as it is such a rare event wasn't accounted for as a design feature.
Also, sometimes a few plants will be off for either scheduled or unscheduled outages and so not available and if the external event happens during one of these times there just may not be enough standby.
One interesting event in TX panhandle about four(?) years ago had to do w/ the new wind generation becoming a significant fraction of the mix--the particular utility was taking about 20% from wind during a very hot period when an unforecasted small wind shift line moved across the area of the wind farm and winds went from 15-20mph to near zero in a couple of minutes. The resulting drop in generation was so rapid it nearly brought the entire region down before they could ramp up enough generation and shed enough load. They managed to save it, but it was close...I'll see if I can find the post-mortem report again--I posted it once but it was shortly after so has been at least a couple of years since...
--
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I think I heard on he history channel that Texas is not on the national grid at all. They are totally self sufficient. (as well as that works for them)
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On 5/28/2012 10:29 AM, snipped-for-privacy@aol.com wrote: ...

That may have been accurate for the time (it was history, right? :) ) but not entirely free of interconnects now.
Just posting from Wikipedia summary for lack of ambition to actually get the precise time frame...but it's basically correct.
"In 1962, when the Eastern Interconnection was established in its current form, The Interconnected Systems Group (composed of Southern and Midwestern utility companies), the PJM Interconnection, and the Canada-United States Eastern Interconnection (CANUSE) formed the Interconnection Coordination Committee to recommend an informal operations structure, which led to the formation of the North American Power Systems Interconnection Committee (NAPSIC). NAPSIC eventually grew to also include the Texas Interconnection and most of the companies in what is today the Western Electricity Coordinating Council (WECC), operating within the Western Interconnection."
<http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:NERC-map-en.svg>
--
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On 5/28/2012 10:11 AM, dpb wrote: ...

Here's one of the winter 2011 incident reports; I've not found my link to the above incident again at the moment...
<http://www.nerc.com/files/RISA%20Cold%20Snap%20report%20September%202011.pdf
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snipped-for-privacy@burditt.org (Gordon Burditt) wrote in

not all electric utility area grids are connected to the "national grid",if there is such a thing. It's probably more like several areas have their own local grids. trying to transfer power across the entire US would be wasteful and inefficient.
--
Jim Yanik
jyanik
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On 5/28/2012 11:30 AM, Jim Yanik wrote:

national grid. Our supplier was one of the founders of and belongs to the PJM (originally PA-NJ-MD) interconnect:
http://www.pjm.com /
It now covers 13 states and DC. According to Wikipedia it serves 51 million customers and has 167 GW (GigaWatts) of generating capacity.
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micky wrote:

Among other concerns, they will be used to implement "time of day" and "demand" price structuring, increasing the cost of residential electicity. A lot of "greens" are solidly behind this technology as a way to jack up prices in an effort to reduce electricity usage (and reduce what they see as the cause of global warming/climate change).
We actually have a fellow in the current election for electric board commisioner who is running on that exact platform.
Jon
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On 5/15/2012 10:52 AM, Jon Danniken wrote:

You mean just like commercial users who have had those options for a really long time? For example I sometimes work at a facility that has induction heaters. They can run them during the day for the regular electric rate or run them off peak at a very reduced rate. So they run those lines in the evening.
That way it is a win-win. They get cheaper power and the electric utility doesn't have to increase capacity for peak load that occurs for a short time since for all practical purposes you can't store electricity.

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