Thursday, December 15, 2011

I really do not understand the opposition to smart meters and a smart grid

I am actually rather pissed off about the opposition to smart meters and the smart grid.   On every level every argument being used against smart meters makes no sense to me.  My quick thoughts on all this.   I suspect I am going to post about this a lot more in the days and weeks to come.

Everyone seems to think that time of use billing is the only reason a smart grid makes sense.   That really is not the case at all.   Yes, a smart gird allows for time of use billing and there are major benefits that would come from that, but there are many more very good reasons why we need a smart grid.  I could go into all of these in a lot of detail, but for the moment here are some of the reasons.

The smart grid will allow BC Hydro to save power.   No changes to anything else other than a change to a smart grid and BC Hydro will be able to much more accurately deliver power over the grid to the customers.   This will mean less power will be needed to do what we do now.   At the moment power is delivered as it is 1910.   BC Hydro estimates the power needed and pushes through the grid.   This is one of the reasons there are power fluctuations.   We use more power than we should and we burn out our equipment sooner.

The new meters are much more accurate than the old ones.   The mechanical ones that have been used are technology from a century ago.  They also fail and have to be replaced.   Given the costs of a bulky mechanical ones, I suspect the installation cost of the new smart meters is lower

BC suffers for small to large power outages every winter due to the storms.   Do you know how BC Hydro knows the power is out at your house?   Only through you calling them.   If no one calls, BC Hydro has no idea who is without power.   They also have no idea how far the outage goes.   Finally they have no idea if all the houses and business have power again.  With the smart meters and a smart grid BC Hydro will know immediately where the power is out and when it is fixed.   This means power outages will be dealt with faster and more efficiently.

BC Hydro will more efficient with smart meters.  No meter readers are needed but they are only one example of how better and more detailed information will allow BC Hydro to operate more efficiently.

Finally BC Hydro will be able to catch people stealing power.   At the moment there is no mechanism in place for BC Hydro to know that power is being stolen.   The 2010 estimate was that about $100,000,000 worth of electrical power is stolen in BC a year.   That is a lot of power.   This means we produce and use more power than needed.  It also means the power bill for everyone is higher than it should be.

With the addition of meters within the distribution line and meters at homes, BC Hydro will know that power is being stolen and track where it is being stolen.   Large scale theft of power for grow ops will be more or less impossible.   This also would be a big blow to the most hard core criminal element of BC because they will lose their biggest single cash source.  

Those are just some of the benefits and looking at them, BC Hydro should be able to recover the cost of installing the smart meters in not that many years.   I will figure out later what the pay back period is.

The opposition seems to come in several forms:

1) Health related issues from the smart meters - I remain stunned that people can see a health issue.   I have yet to see a single well done study that show any link between non-ionizing electro-magnetic radiation, let alone one that shows a causal link.   You never prove a negative so we can never prove anything is 'safe', but based on all the evidence there is nothing to indicate that
2) Privacy issues - really?   People are seriously worried that data about their electrical usage could be hacked?   If one could do that, and I am not convinced that this is realistic, what would anyone gain from this?   How would anyone benefit from this information if they could get it?
3) It was forced on people - no one is forced to buy power from BC Hydro.   No one has ever had choice on the sort of meter was used to measure your power usage.   The meter belongs to BC Hydro and is not the property of the customer.   The only issue that matters is that the meter accurately measures power use.   The smart meters do this better.
4) This was not approved by the BC Utilities Commission.   Anyone that says this does not understand the role of BCUC.
5) It costs too much.   Since BC Hydro will save a bunch of money and the smart grid stuff is paid back rather quickly, this is simply not true at all.

The online space has been occupied for too long by people opposing the smart grid.   There seems to be no group that is actively in favour or smart meters and the smart grid here in BC.   I think it is time for this sort of group to be created.
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