Smarting Under Smart Meters

Here in Charlottesville, Virginia are John Casteen, David Slutzky, Dave Norris, and then–governor Tim Kaine really (The HOOK 8.12.10) “smart”? This cabal seems pleased with itself and its imposition of smart electrical meters upon the local electric energy consumer by Dominion Virginia Power.

Is Maryland even smarter? 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 reason cited was that “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 life style 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 “smart grid” is, as yet, a fictitious concept with no uniform definition nor actual design. It is the 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 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. The Maryland PUC agrees. The customers here will just be “smarting.”

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