Energy bills are increasing and are expected to increase even more in the foreseeable future. Seventy-four percent of Americans surveyed are extremely or very concerned about the rising cost of utility bills. But will utility bills increase more than any potential cost savings or management options enabled by smart grid? In other words, after the smart meter has been installed and the consumer has access to the smart grid, what happens if the consumers’ bill is bigger, and perhaps, substantially bigger due to any number of factors external to smart grid: rising fuel input costs, increasing utility rates to replace and/or bolster aging infrastructure, new costs [relating] to renewable or nuclear power generation, or even if the consumer herself consumes more energy because of new devices or a changing lifestyle.
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Saturday, May 22, 2010
On the eve of the recent British elections, the
Balanced against these costs, the plan predicts major consumer benefits. Specifically, the plan envisions that the average consumer will see (through energy use reductions facilitated by smart meters) savings of approximately £25 to £35 per bill. See here and here.
But the question always remains: will consumers actually use smart meter data? In this regard, a recent survey suggests that, at least in the
Late last month, on behalf of PassivSystems, a home technology firm, the British public opinion research organization YouGov conducted an online smart meter survey of 2085 adults. The YouGov survey suggests that approximately seven out of ten British consumers would not act on the information provided by smart meters even if smart meters were installed. See here and here. In other words, actual consumer behavior may trump the projected consumer cost reductions.Of course, this type of survey – asking consumers to predict future conduct based on new, unproven, and not yet available technologies – cannot be viewed as definitive. But the YouGov survey is one more indication that consumers haven’t yet bought into the smart meter concept – and may prove resistant when asked to foot the bill for smart meter installation.
Monday, May 17, 2010
In the spring of 2004, the government of
But as in
That reality, which extends beyond
This is not to say that such a change is either impossible or necessarily undesirable. But to get there will require a lot of heavy lifting by industry stakeholders and a level of consumer acceptance and buy-in that does not presently appear to exist anywhere.
Beyond consumer behavior,
Again, that is a global concern not just limited to Ontario.
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
Complying with orders from the California Public Utilities Commission, Pacific Gas & Electric Company yesterday released approximately 700 pages of smart meter installation status reports covering the period from August 2006 through April 2010 (see here). PG&E previously had provided these reports to the CPUC on a confidential basis, but earlier this month, in response to numerous consumer complaints (see Post ## 6, 8, and 13), the CPUC ordered that the reports be made public (see Post # 15).
PG&E also held a press conference yesterday, apologizing for the problems to date, defending its overall performance, and describing steps to improve that performance. While acknowledging that smart meters caused billing errors for over 40,000 households and that customers often had problems getting PG&E to respond – Helen Burt, PG&E’s senior vice president and chief customer officer, called the situation “simply unacceptable” customer service – PG&E emphasized that 99% of the smart meters installed to date have functioned properly.
But in recognition that its customer service and communications strategy need an upgrade, the company announced that it has set up a smart meter dedicated call center – where 165 employees can handle customer questions – and is holding town hall meetings in neighborhoods where its doing smart meter installations. PG&E also said it would begin posting weekly information on the number of smart meters having problems and will increase the number of "side-by-side meter tests" to 300, comparing data from old meters to new smart meters.
In response to calls by some consumer groups for a smart meter “moratorium,” PG&E's spokespersons said that the company does not plan to stop installing smart meters. Meanwhile, PG&E’s critics can be expected to comb through the existing posted reports and the forthcoming weekly information for ammunition.
Friday, May 7, 2010
Monday, May 3, 2010
As previously discussed, in 2007 Congress directed the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, in coordination with the National Institute of Standards and Technology, to develop standards and protocols necessary to insure interstate Smart Grid functionality (see Post # 2 and my paper, “Smart Grid: The Devil Is In the Details.”
Last week, FERC Commissioner Philip Moeller, recently nominated by President Obama for a second term, emphasized that regulators need to be realistic and restrained in their discussions of the Smart Grid.
Testifying on April 27, 2010, before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, Moeller said that the Smart Grid has “revolutionary and transformative potential” to enhance efficiency in the Nation’s electric grid. At the same time, however, Moeller underscored that this potential “will not be immediate and will occur at varying paces throughout the nation.” In particular, Moeller cautioned that FERC itself must be careful “not to overpromise the benefits of the smart grid to consumers lest there be a backlash that slows the pace of its implementation.”
I think that last point is crucial, and not just for FERC and other regulators, but for all Smart Grid proponents. Ultimately, the bill for Smart Grid will be picked up by consumers, taxpayers, and utility ratepayers. And before they will accept that burden, consumers, taxpayers, and utility ratepayers must be convinced that there is something in it for them. These days, too much Smart Grid discussion takes place among “true believers.” Getting the public on board will require down-to-earth advocacy that identifies clearly articulated and truly likely benefits, free from “pie-in-the-sky” promotion.