The Smart Grid is Kinda Dumb

Smart Grid is one of those phrases that everyone likes the sound of, but know little about.  What is the Smart Grid?  On the surface it would seem it is like the electric grid we have now, only better.  Wikipedia says…”A smart grid is an electrical grid that uses information and communications technology to gather and act on information, such as information about the behaviors of suppliers and consumers, in an automated fashion to improve the efficiency, reliability, economics, and sustainability of the production and distribution of electricity.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smart_grid)  Wow, that sounds great when do we start?

Whenever “experts” are interviewed about this they concentrate on the supply chain “smartness”, but they rarely dwell on the demand solutions of the “Smart Grid”.  Supply chain changes are very good, in that they reroute supply of energy on the fly, to make sure the grid stays electrified.  The demand side is where manufacturers install devices on your appliances, so the Public Utility can control them.  This is said to be necessary if you as the consumer are using more than your fair share of electricity, and more is needed for high priority customers.  So the solution to not enough power, is to ration who gets the power.

An early sign that we are headed in this direction is PSE&G’s (NJ utility) Cool Customer Program.  There may be similar programs being rolled out throughout the country.  It is said to “Save energy…save money…and help the environment at the same time.  An easy, voluntary way to manage your home energy use in the summer…and all year round.”  This voluntary program gives you a setback thermostat, and a $50 credit on your bill.   This sounds like an awesome program, since the setback thermostat is worth over $200.  If you read more of the details, they let you know how you get to save the environment too.  On those particularly hot days when the utility does not have enough supply of electricity to satisfy their customers, THEY TURN OFF YOUR AIR CONDITIONING!  Just think how much energy you will save when they cycle off your air conditioning every 15 minutes.  They assure you that this will only happen on the hottest days of the year.

Why wait for manufacturers to install the monitoring devices on your dishwasher, when Air Conditioning is one of the heaviest uses of electricity.  It is not surprising that this is the earliest demand target.  If there are not enough volunteers, however, we can logically assume where this program goes next.  Phase two probably makes the set back thermostat required in order to receive power.  Phase three is when they just come and take away your air conditioner.  Phase four they have another family move into your house.  You are probably using more than your fair share of electricity anyway.

In the old days, price would regulate the use of products such as electricity.  If you use more, you pay more.  Markets would lead us to the right balance between supply and demand.  As the price goes up, we find cheaper energy, or invent more efficient ways to use it.  This does not seem to be enough anymore.  ‘If we are to save the environment we must force people to behave a certain way’, seems to be the vision.  The standard solution to every problem out of government, or quasi-government such as public utilities, is more control and less freedom.

Author Bio:

Michael has been an editor and contributor at the website www.freemarketsfreepeople.net for over 2 years. He has over 20+ years of diverse business experience, from running complex operations where he managed hundreds of people, to starting and running small businesses such as www.realinterestfund.com. He is blessed, or perhaps cursed, with a logical mind which he uses to analyze government, media, politics, and culture. He believes that his life experiences help him bring a unique perspective to the issues of the day.
  • Stimpy

    The ‘smart grid’ scares me in another way. We’ve got concerns about cyber warfare and the ability of Chinese hackers to muck around and attack infrastructure. Why then would you want switches or generators on the power grid connected to the internet? Isn’t this just making us more vulnerable to this sort of attack?

  • Gizmo

    The real kicker to all this? I don’t remember where I read it, but because we’re using less gasoline now States/governments are realizing that they aren’t getting as much TAX REVENUE! The same thing is going to be happening with all this, too. “They” want us to limit how much we use to “save” the planet & “save” resources but then when “they” realize that tax revenues are dropping, then “they” raise taxes!

  • Venter

    Supply and demand that’s common sense! How many smog alerts have we had , The market and SOME regulations and COMMON SENSE have helped clean the air. However government’s job is to balance the budget, pay down the debt by cutting spending and not military spending,they are suppose to be keeping us safe from our enemies. Now we know what HOPE means. HOPE they stop taking things away from us and HOPE Americans see the CHANGE that is taking place with all the controls.. .

  • nickshaw

    We are going to save the world and we are asking you to assist.
    Failing that, we’ll come and make you assist.
    Remember, helping us help you is good for both of us!
    Yeah, this is going to turn out well.
    If you don’t think they will get all the “assistance” they need, take a look at what is being taught in schools.

  • RickonhisHarleyJohnson

    Power Generation is the only industry I know that tries to talk you out of buying their product. Government regulation at it’s worst! And 51% of the voters voted for even more!

  • DOOM161

    Who needs air conditioning on the hottest days of the year, anyway? It’s not like people work hard for their money and deserve to use it however they see fit.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/David-Ceasar/100001330733385 David Ceasar

      The point is that meeting peak demand requires the power company to keep a power source on standby, just to provide for those peeks. Also the grid needs to be upgraded to be able to handle that peak load. So is is extremely expensive if people all turn on their airco, but at the moment the utilities can only distribute their cost over the other consumers instead of charge the individuals who cause the peak. Socialism!