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Next step in “Smart” metering; control of energy usage remotely at power company’s discretion

By Sue Forde
for Citizen Review Online

February 4, 2013

Las Vegas, NV – Some Nevada Energy customers are getting an offer in the mail inviting them to participate in a “new energy savings initiative” offers by NV Energy.  The program is “free” to the customer, the letter states (but of course, not free to the taxpayers who pay for it!), and is a “home management system” that “helps your air conditioner and heater operate more efficiently.” (See NV Power home management letter.)

The customer, if they agree to sign on, will receive a “free” “intelligent thermostat – a $200 value; with “free” installation (worth $100.).

Once the “intelligent” thermostat is installed, NV Energy will be able to remotely monitor your power usage through the Smart Meter they previously installed.  (There is some question whether the wireless technology could be intercepted by individuals other than the power company.) 

A “Smart Meter” is defined as “The communications infrastructure that supports two-way delivery of information between smart meters and data collectors or access points. This infrastructure can be wired or wireless, and can be owned by the utility or a third party service provider.” (See popup information on right sidebar.)

In a small-print footnote at the bottom of the letter, it states:  “NV Energy may occasionally increase the set point temperature of your thermostat by up to 4 degrees for 2-4 hours in the summer to conserve energy during times of peak demand.  Participation in Energy Events is voluntary and can earn valuable participation credits that can be used to reduce your energy costs.”

According to the Smart Grid website, “PROGRAMMABLE COMMUNICATING THERMOSTAT  – Thermostats with communications capabilities. The communication enables sending messages to thermostats to remotely modify temperature set points and load consumption.” (See popup information on right sidebar.)

So two things are affected with a customer voluntary submits to the installation:

1)     NV Energy monitors your power usage remotely;

2)    NV Energy has the ability to turn your thermostat up or down, or completely off, remotely.

According to SmartGrid.gov, the funding for the Smart Meters and “Home Management Systems” come from taxpayers’ money via the so-called “Recovery Act” (Recovery Act Smart Grid Programs).

At the webpage about the NV Energy funding , it states:

“NV Energy’s NV Energize project includes deployment of smart meters and communications infrastructure for all residential and commercial customers and pilot programs for time-based rates, advanced customer service options, and electric vehicle monitoring. The project also includes a new meter data management system (MDMS) that integrates all the smart meter data for use in system management, operations, and billing activities. An advanced demand response management system (DRMS) integrates the utility’s portfolio of demand response programs and provides a link to customer service, control operations, system operations, and other functions. ..”

The grant is also being used to “study” Consumer Behavior – “The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is working with a subset of the Smart Grid Investment Grant (SGIG) award recipients to examine the response of consumers to variable electricity prices, or time-based rate programs, along with the deployment of advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) and customer systems such as in-home displays. The effort presents an opportunity to advance the electricity industry’s understanding of consumers through carefully designed studies that apply rigorous statistical methods.”

ADVANCED METERING INFRASTRUCTURE  – Advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) projects include the installation of smart meters that can facilitate two-way communication between consumers and utilities. Smart meters are able to measure, store, send, and receive real-time digital information concerning electricity use, costs, and prices that can be used to implement dynamic pricing, demand response, load management, billing, remote connect/disconnect, outage detection and management, tamper detection, and other programs.

An excerpt from a White Paper written by Mike Hazard shows the folly of the Smart Meter issue:

“A presentation by Jeff Lyng at the AB 150 hearings introduced another way NVE will try to implement change in the usage habits of their customers to bring about less energy consumption. NVE would contract with a company called Opower to gather information about customer’s energy usage and then compare that usage analysis to their neighbor’s usage. He gave testimony at one of the committee hearings while AB 150 was under consideration and said “Behavior change programs leverage the power of social comparison to drive energy and utility savings. This approach has been proven to deliver persistent, verifiable energy savings across the country without the need to install new hardware in a home.” Then he displayed a bar graph that showed a model 12-month customer energy consumption comparing the energy efficient neighbors to you and all your neighbors and it even detailed for the higher energy users how much more energy you used and how much more your energy cost than your efficient neighbors. The sample group comes from about 100 occupied nearby homes that are similar in size or homes averaging 2,600 sf and have electric heat.”

“Jeff lyng from Opower went on to say his program would save $20.00 per house per year and that the state or overall program he’d implement could save Nevada residents $15 million. 38 So now lets take the numbers Jeff gives us in the May 6th, 2011 Las Vegas Sun article and do the math. We already know per NVE estimates that they will be replacing 1.3 million meters so there must be 1.3 million houses or dwelling units that have meters. If we take 1.3m times $20.00 we save $26million maybe as a group of Las Vegas Valley customers which is not bad, but don’t forget the rate increase that went into affect July 1, 2011 per the May 23rd Las Vegas Sun article. Individually we only save $1.66 per month. That’s nothing really and it gets worse.”

“Using Jeff’s numbers, in which he appears to be using an average $155.00 monthly residential electrical bill we find that the savings start to erode after we add on the 3.4% rate hike that went into affect July 1, 2011. When we multiply Jeff’s $155.00 monthly bill times the new 3.4% rate increase 41 that gets us to the extra $5.29 Jeff said that will be added to our new “average” electrical bill. When you multiply $5.29 times 1.3 million meters in the Valley you have just wiped out $6.8million of the original $26 million Jeff said we’d save by the new energy efficiency measures NVE is trying to implement in the valley. Are they really going to spend $301 million so we can save $26 million and then take it all away from us again through rate hikes to pay for their “smart Grid” implementation?”

Here is a link to show you what this “Neighbor Comparison” for behavior change would look like: http://www.leg.state.nv.us/Session/76th2011/Exhibits/Assembly/CMC/ACMC597E.pdf

Is this program being advanced in your area?  Let us know – contact us.

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, any copyrighted work in this message is distributed under fair use without profit or payment for non-profit research and educational purposes only. [Ref. http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml]

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