Energy contest closing: As smart meters keep up with the Joneses

news-smartgridWith John Casteen, David Slutzky, Dave Norris, and then governor Tim Kaine looking on, Dominion boss Thomas Farrell introduces "smart meters."

The enrollment deadline approaches for the Charlottesville Home Energy Makeover Contest, which, as recently reported, will provide two area homes with $10,000 in home energy efficiency improvements.

The contest, which will also provide eight runners up with a free $500-value professional home energy audit, is a partnership between the non-profit Local Energy Alliance Program, LEAP, and Dominion Virginia Power, whose president unveiled the company's new "smart meters" on the Downtown Mall a little over a year ago.

Charlottesville is the first community in Virginia–- and one of the first in the nation–- to get the meters, which give real-time feedback on power usage to the consumer and the company. The approximately $20 million program envisions installing about 46,500 of the meters in the city of Charlottesville and the County of Albemarle.

At the June 2009 announcement, Dominion President Farrell called the meters part of a "smart grid" which–- besides ending the time-consuming practice of driving around reading meters–- can give instant reports of power outages and help promote conservation. Already, many customers may have noticed that their bills include a new datapoint the meters have enabled: comparing their electric usage to that of nearby similarly-sized homes.

The deadline for the $10,000 contest is August 20.


It seems to me it would be better to not put more expensive meters in so the power company could lay off more workers and concentrate on more inexpensive ways to provide power.

I have a smart meter on my house, but have no idea how to "use" it. Right now i have less of an idea how much power i am using, before i could at least look at the spinning disk. Is there a website i can log into? What makes this meter smart?

I bought a "smart" washer and dryer from GE. This "smart" washer had a "brain hemmorage" 3 months out of warranty and the "brain" was 440 dollars. But on the good side I think I saved about 60 or 70 dollars worth of water during the warranty period and so long as nothing else goes wrong I will break even in another 12-15 years.

My old ge washer lasted 23 years without repairs until the seals finally gave out. A seal lit insatlled was 180 bucks and I opted to go new.

I should have learned my lesson when I traded in my Chevy nova for a subaru 20 years and three transmissions ago.

Better hurry up to get your chance to spend more money in this time of economic hardship for many. Gee whizz, a free " $500 energy audit." What happens after this "free" audit? It would be a laundry list of "improvements" for the home owner to pay for. Replace that water heater, install those solar panels, replace those leaky windows. Thousands of dollars of new found business opportunities through this thinly disguised, business marketing scheme, and potential-customer, mailing list generator. Don't forget to ask whether your life time of energy savings will match the life time of the new gadgets, your home, or your own.

Ask Dominion who is paying for the $20 million for the smart meter project, which is putting the meter readers out of work. It is likely someone's taxes somewhere. Ask Dominion if your electric bill is going up because of flaky wind power projects, paid for by consumer rate hikes, and benefiting rich investors with tax credits at your expense.

Dominion Power apparently values your freedom-of-choice at $40.00 per summer season. The next step in the consumer's potential loss of freedom would be "smart appliances" ready to obey the electronic commands from a distant company computer. A glimpse into this Orwellian future is provided by the current opportunity to have your airconditioning unit controlled by big brother Dominion. If you accept their idea of home comfort for your home, they will send you $40.00 in exchange for your freedom-of-choice. A great deal, no?

Why not just increase electrical generating capacity?

Neighbors everwhere must be eagerly anticipating the coming block parties where each family can wave about its latest, computer generated electric bill statement. Mine is lower than yours; no, that is not fair, granny is on a ventilator; no, that is nothing, we have three electric cars...the commumnity spirit will be over whelming. Don't forget the opportunities to get the school children involved as well. Show-and-tell "who has the lowest/highest" meter reading contests would be a new chance to develop classroom social skills. Parents would welcome the news that they were being ostracized in classrooms by having the highest electric bill of the month.

Why not just increase electrical generating capacity?

Why not increase generating capacity. well, because of all that capitalism people claim to love and believe in. it doesnt make economic sense.

fist, the grid is already bottlenecked in places during peak demand. adding generating capacity is going to make that worse, not better during those times

second, with privatization, the purpose of a utility is to money for its stockholders, not provide a service or to carefully maintain its transmission and distribution system for customers. electricity is a commodity like any other commodity, with widespread trading in electricity contracts, futures, and other derivatives.

building capacity (plants or lines) costs money, and takes away from all that precious ROI.

a new nuke plant will cost at least $5 Billion. and take over 10 years to build. maybe. and lenders are not going to lend the nuke industry money. the nuke industry is already a pig at the public trough.

the idea of a smart grid or smart meters is just that - it is not some marxist conspiracy to sap and impurify all of our precious bodily fluids - a grid that should function more efficiently and allow people to use energy when it’s needed, save it for later when it’s not needed. this is based on technology to monitor, analyze, control, and communicate capabilities to the electrical delivery system to optimize the system while reducing the energy consumption where it is not needed.

it is simply not that complicated.

in terms of being orwellian, I dont think that means what you think it means. how exactly is smart grid doublethink?

Clear Skies. sure. Smart Grid. not so much.

Charles, dont you have a representative you should be sending threatening letters too?

Are they ââ?¬Å?smarter” in Maryland? Maybe it is just that the regulatory folks in Maryland are doing a better job of looking out for their electric utility customers. Maryland's Public Utility Commission (PUC) has just rejected the proposal of Baltimore Gas and Electric to install 1.2 million smart meters in Baltimore. One cited reason was that ââ?¬Å?the proposal would not in and of itself enhance the electric transmission grid or the company's distribution backbone.” The make-work aspects of the multimillion dollar proposal did not hold sway. This follows similar rejections in California, Florida, and Connecticut.

Is the smart meter automatically smart for the consumer? It is smart of the utilities to delay the construction of new power plants, for awhile. Is the consumer guaranteed to recoup his taxpayer and rate subsidies to the power companies to roll out these plans? You can be sure that the utilities are arguing their cases for higher rates at the public utility commissions.

Resetting your lifestyle to the needs of a smart meter, rather than the converse is a choice. For some it may be a passion to catch the low electric pricing of the day/night. It may be worth it to stay at home from work, stay up at night, or buy a dedicated computer to do it all. This assumes that time-of-use-pricing would actually result in lower electric bills for the compliant user, and offset the annoyance and additional cost factors.

The ââ?¬Å?smart grid” is, as yet, a fictitious concept with no uniform definition nor actual design. It is a wishful thinking project that the nation's electric grid can be reinvented, replaced, and updated to accommodate the vagaries of intermittent, renewable energy sources. The hodgepodge of local and regional energy companies, different local power sources, differing transmission distances, and of course diverse environmental concerns add up to a real-world challenge to any engineering plan.
Smart meters are not going to put a meaningful dent in that process, and the Maryland PUC agrees.