Energy consultant Craig Miller, who spends much of his time working to make the smart grid a reality, got a jolt when he mentioned his work to a new acquaintance. The man, who happened to be a lineman at a Pennsylvania utility, responded earnestly: “Smart meters are a plot by Obama to spy on us.”
The encounter was a disheartening sign of the challenge ahead for proponents of the smart grid, who say that the technology can help the industry meet power demand, fix problems faster, and help consumers lower their electricity bills. Advocates of such a 21st-century grid are learning that they need to take privacy concerns seriously. Though smart meters are not, in fact, a domestic espionage scheme, they do raise questions: In a world where households start talking with the power grid, what exactly will be revealed? And who will be listening? (See related quiz: “What You Don’t Know About Electricity.”)
The term “smart grid” encompasses an array of technologies that can be implemented at various points along the line of transmission from power plant to electricity user, but for many consumers, it is symbolized by one thing: the smart meter. A majority of U.S. states have begun deploying the wireless meters, which can send electricity usage information from a household back to the utility remotely at frequent intervals. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, more than 36 million smart meters were installed across the nation as of August 2012, covering about a quarter of all electrical customers. In the European Union, only 10 percent of households have smart meters but they are being deployed rapidly to meet an EU mandate that the technology reach 80 percent of households by 2020.
Because smart meters can provide real-time readings of household energy use instead of the familiar monthly figures most customers now see in their electric bills, the devices offer a new opportunity for consumers to learn more about their own power use and save money. But the ability to track a household’s energy use multiple times a day also presents some unsettling possibilities. In theory, the information collected by smart meters could reveal how many people live in a home, their daily routines, changes in those routines, what types of electronic equipment are in the home, and other details. “It’s not hard to imagine a divorce lawyer subpoenaing this information, an insurance company interpreting the data in a way that allows it to penalize customers, or criminals intercepting the information to plan a burglary,” the private nonprofit Electronic Frontier Foundation noted in a blog post about smart meters. (Related: “Pictures: The Energy Drain of Recreational Drugs”)
Romney ‘Won’ the debate by floating a pack of lies to the American Public.
This is why we can’t afford Romney as president, he’s willing to propagate wingnut lies and propaganda to score points on the campaign trail, he’s lying about this so what else would he lie about? It’s time to tear down this paranoid wingnut bullshit because our children and our grandchildren can’t afford it. We can’t hand them a huge deficit, but we shouldn’t hand our great grand children a cinder for a planet either.
The Department of Energy this June specified “33 clean energy projects” of a larger scale as part of its “loans program.” Of those, financing had been “closed” on 20 of them. The intent was to promote new technologies and approaches, not necessarily old ones.
There are also other things such as high speed rail and smart meters — which are listed elsewhere, under “Infrastructure,” as part of the same overarching stimulus legislation. Accounting for things like that, a report from the Brookings Institution non-partisan think tank this April tabbed the total green stimulus spending at $51 billion.
Then, there’s the matter of whether half of those companies that have gotten money “have gone out of business.”
A few recipients of the government funds have hit hard times. The most well-known of them is solar panel maker Solyndra, which received a $535 million loan guarantee from the Department of Energy. Two years later, it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Still, it is unclear where Romney got his figure that “half” those businesses are no longer operating.
The Energy Department cites several success stories like one of the world’s largest wind farms in eastern Oregon, massive solar power plants in Arizona and grants to Ford to produce fuel-efficient cars.
In fact, of the 28 funded projects — involving 23 companies — listed in a 2012 congressional report, only four involve businesses that were either sold or are not in operation.
Americans shop for viciously for bargains, whether it’s getting plane tickets from discount web sites or driving across town to save 30 cents on a tank of gas. But when it comes to electricity, we’ve been simply writing checks for the bills we receive at the end of the month. Few of us know how much we pay for a kilowatt hour, or how many kilowatt hours we use—or what a kilowatt hour actually is.
Since the 1920s, Americans have paid flat regulated prices per hour for electricity. But de-regulated wholesale electricity prices now gyrate extravagantly from nearly zero at night to as high as $3,000 per megawatt hour during a late-afternoon Texas heat wave.
A new study from two UC Davis economists—Katrina Jessoe and David Rapson—suggests that if we had the right information, we could become enlightened shoppers, saving money buying cheap low-pollution hydro or wind power in the middle of the night while turning off the expensive stuff made with fossil fuels in the late afternoon.
In 2009, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act stimulus provided $3.4 billion to move the US towards a “smart grid.” Establishing that grid involves a long list of behind-the-scenes upgrades but for consumers largely involved the installation of smart meters that record not just the quantity of electricity a home uses, but when it is used. The hope was that consumers who changed their behavior would save money, utilities could avoid building power plants, and we’d all produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions.
To fill all of these roles, though, consumers accustomed to being passive purchasers would have to become active shoppers.
The UN is coming to take us over, Bike lanes and smart meters are proof…
They are showing up at planning meetings to denounce bike lanes on public streets and smart meters on home appliances — efforts they equate to a big-government blueprint against individual rights.
“Down the road, this data will be used against you,” warned one speaker at a recent Roanoke County, Va., Board of Supervisors meeting who turned out with dozens of people opposed to the county’s paying $1,200 in dues to a nonprofit that consults on sustainability issues.
Local officials say they would dismiss such notions except that the growing and often heated protests are having an effect.
In Maine, the Tea Party-backed Republican governor canceled a project to ease congestion along the Route 1 corridor after protesters complained it was part of the United Nations plot. Similar opposition helped doom a high-speed train line in Florida. And more than a dozen cities, towns and counties, under new pressure, have cut off financing for a program that offers expertise on how to measure and cut carbon emissions.
“It sounds a little on the weird side, but we’ve found we ignore it at our own peril,” said George Homewood, a vice president of the American Planning Association’s chapter in Virginia.
The protests date to 1992 when the United Nations passed a sweeping, but nonbinding, 100-plus-page resolution called Agenda 21 that was designed to encourage nations to use fewer resources and conserve open land by steering development to already dense areas. They have gained momentum in the past two years because of the emergence of the Tea Party movement, harnessing its suspicion about government power and belief that man-made global warming is a hoax.
In January, the Republican Party adopted its own resolution against what it called “the destructive and insidious nature” of Agenda 21. And Newt Gingrich took aim at it during a Republican debate in November.
Tom DeWeese, the founder of the American Policy Center, a Warrenton, Va.-based foundation that advocates limited government, says he has been a leader in the opposition to Agenda 21 since 1992. Until a few years ago, he had few followers beyond a handful of farmers and ranchers in rural areas. Now, he is a regular speaker at Tea Party events.
Membership is rising, Mr. DeWeese said, because what he sees as tangible Agenda 21-inspired controls on water and energy use are intruding into everyday life. “People may be acting out at some of these meetings, and I do not condone that. But their elected representatives are not listening and they are frustrated.”
Researchers at the Münster University of Applied Sciences have discovered that it is possible to use electricity usage data from smart electricity meters to determine which programmes consumers are watching on a standard TV set. The experiments were carried out as part of the state-funded DaPriM (data privacy management) project. By analysing electricity consumption patterns, it is, in principle, also possible to identify films played from a DVD or other source.
Light and dark passages in these films, large volumes of data, and a minimum of interference from other devices are the key to performing this analysis. The group’s experiments used data from a standard EasyMeter smart meter installed in a normal home. The meter sends electricity usage data to a server every two seconds. The customer profile on the supplier’s web server shows the household’s total consumption, from which it is possible to extract and analyse TV viewing data.
Until now, the general assumption has been that it would be possible to use typical electricity consumption data from the smart meter for different appliances to determine whether a customer had prepared his or her dinner in the microwave, on the hob or in the oven, but nothing more. That possibility had already spurred data protection officials in the USA, where smart meters are already widely used, into action – they demanded precise regulations on how electricity meters deal with and protect collected data.
Second by second data transfer makes it possible to carry out much finer analysis. In the opinion of the Münster-based research team, this calls for a tightening of data protection regulations. One solution might be to increase the polling interval or simply to transfer a statistical summary to the electricity generator or provider. This would make the high resolution consumption data required for close analysis unavailable. Either way, the consumer is reliant on the provider taking the appropriate measures.