Nick Rosen | |

Lets shine a light on this so-called smart grid
The Smart Grid is the much-hyped upgrade to our tottering electrical network. Is it a silver bullet or the ultimate wrong turn in America’s technological history?

What worries me is the lack of debate. The Energy industry has managed to line everyone up in favor without any evidence that this is the best thing for the country for the next half century. I want to hear from people interested in challenging the stranglehold the energy industry has on this issue at the moment.

“It is like rebuilding our entire airplane fleet, along with our runways and air traffic system, while the planes are all up in the air filled with passengers,” says Peter Fox-Penner, a principal with the Brattle Group consulting firm. Is that meant to be confidence-inspiring? It sure scares me.

Corporate America wants to spend well over a trillion dollars adding a layer of intelligent technology to the existing grid, managing power flows more effectively and integrating renewable energy. The lobbying is intense as the Infotech companies begin jostling with the Utilities for control.

Critics say it will:
MAINTAIN existing inefficiencies which lose at least 50% of energy from end to end.
HIKE prices for most consumers
REDUCE Energy Security by creating hacker vulnerability
THREATEN individual privacy with a new ”spy in the home.”

Above all, it will cost huge amounts at a time when there are much cheaper alternatives.
Smart Grid boosters include GE, AEP, IBM and the DoE. “The benefits on our side of the meter are substantial,” said Michael Morris, chairman, president and CEO of AEP.
So the Utility companies feel it will benefit their bottom line – no surprises there. And nothing wrong with making a profit. But what if it damages the nation’s energy security?
“The Smart Grid will merely cement into place all the things that are currently wrong with the grid, and then add a few more,” says Carol Overland, a lawyer from Red Wing MN, who spends her professional life in Utility commission hearings trying to beat down the consumer price of electricity gas and water.
The $400 billion per year Electricity industry has not always had Americans best interests at heart. The history of the original US grid is one of shadowy forces led by GE uniting to create “an electrical consciousness” . In 2009 a barrage of Superbowl advertising heralded the new Smart Grid campaign. History is in danger of repeating itself.
I want to go back to the roots of the US power industry to analyse how we got here and where “They” want to take us next. As Telecom lawyer/lobbyist Paul Besozzi of Patton Boggs says: “We’re just kind of at the start of this process.”
Lobbying will be on a grand scale. Meanwhile the sort of small scale solutions that are enabled by new technology are in danger of being overlooked. The “Locavolts” movement in Marin County outside San Francisco is pioneering a direct alternative – local ”microgrids” under the control of the end-users offer a cheaper and cleaner alternative. They are “an antidote to the smart grid” says Peter Asmus – Senior Analyst at Pike Research, a respected energy consultancy.
My book OG contains a chapter which summarises the history of the American Grid, and lays out exactly why the Energy Lobby wants the taxpayer to fork out $1.5 TRILLION to cement the existing failed system into place. I have summarised the chapter here.
As America sleepwalks into the arms of Big Power, lets at least give the public the benefit of a debate.

Buy our book - OFF THE GRID - a tour of American off-grid places and people written by Nick Rosen, editor of the off-grid.net web site

5 Responses to “The Smart Grid Lobbying Machine – an Opposition Manifesto”

  1. Don Young

    Other than the lack of maintenance,I’m really not sure how the current grid has failed. How much of that $1.5 T figure will be going to address aging structure, in addition to the “smart” features? Taxes paid by those in the past helped build the grid we are using today. These localized grids, are they or will they be doing their own power generation;or they now buying power from the grid, and in the future will they be buying power from that smart grid? Face it, if you are connected to the grid you will accept what the power utilities do. Through taxes or rate increases we will be paying for it, like we have always been doing.

    Reply
  2. erin

    i dont give a crap about the “grid”. im much much much more concerned about the failing gas lines underneath all of our houses. especially since i live in pa.

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  3. RobertWilliams

    ALL SMART UTILITY METERS ON HOMES ARE PROBLEMS.

    1. Eliminating Wireless Smart Meters will eliminate much of the HEALTH Problems, but the switching power supply of the wired meter and the additional dirty electricity sent through the home electrical wiring (that varies based on wiring in each home) will continue to be a health problem from the wired smart meters (though less than from the Wireless meters).

    2. Privacy violation will still be a problem. With this “Smart” meter direction taken at the individual home level, eventually all appliances and electronic devices will have their own electronic signature codes and every action (and non action and absence) within the home will be observable via the utility smart meter.

    3. If utility demand / use is needed for a smarter grid, collect the neighborhood, community and regional utility information at utility DISTRIBUTION points, NOT off each individual home.

    4. The greatest inefficiency in energy is the power lost transmitting energy long distances, so this theoretical concept of shifting energy from Chicago to Miami and across to Phoenix is absurd in practice.

    5. The security challenge that arises by putting an entire country’s utilities on one system is a security and tactical nightmare.

    6. More local generation of energy may not quite accomplish the economies of scale of larger systems, but they eliminate the security risks for attacks on an entire nation.

    7. Local generation also increases competition with so many visible entities competing with each other’s performance to be better, less costly and more energy efficient. This visibility of alternatives will motivate the best parts of each system to be adapted by others.

    With one large National system, there is no motivation via visibility or competition to improve and a large bureaucratic entity will certainly result, with typical public relations jargon patting themselves on the back.

    8. The word smart is good and an awful lot is implied, but this home smart meter application is a disaster in itself and the direction of practical applications that will stem from it and further implant it will continue to expand on the disaster.

    9. The utility companies are pushing these meters on homes because utility companies will eliminate the full time employee-with-benefits cost of the meter readers. These meter readers also serve as personal contacts to the communities which is dreadfully lacking with the no-benefit phone operators in India, the Philippines and Mexico, etc that take customer calls and have a script to read from. And even these operators can only be reached after long waits and frequent disconnections.

    10. Keep the analog meters in place. Their working lives are more than twice that of these new digital meters.

    11. Keep the analog meters in place. If the country decides to further raise the unemployment by eliminating the meter reader jobs, then have people send in their own meter readings every month along with their payments for the previous month.

    The Utility Company can check once each six months to confirm the accuracy and honesty of the meter readings. For those with good records, utility company checks can be extended to once per year. And all that money saved can be shared with both the utility company and the customers.

    12. The smart grid is projected to create new contracts and resulting jobs. Contracts and jobs are great, but lets apply them to something rational that gives advantage to the country on a practical basis, not on a theoretical basis that has a whole list of practical disadvantages and disasters.

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  4. BadVooDooDaddy

    This new grid system seems like a bad joke to me. Why would we want the same problems we currently have plus some new ones and open our system up to “Hackers” so that they have the opportunity to pull the whole grid down? I think it is a bad choice all the way around.

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  5. Casey T

    If it wasn’t such a corrupt situation that threatens the existence of our future generations, it would be laughable. Take a step back folks and look at how the corporate entities are making their decision solely based on what will secure the highest profits and long term authority.
    Effort can be made at many different levels from reducing usage to upgrading appliances to investing in renewable energy and ultimately unplugging from the national transmission chains.
    Going off-grid is a big step but there is a clear path to take with plenty of support to get you there. Thanks, Nick for all that you do!

    Reply

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