Archive for April, 2009

Consumers Seeking Benefits Of Smart Grid


The Wall Street Journal yesterday took a contrary view in its story, “Smart Meters, Dumb Idea?” at

Rebecca Smith, the author, makes a legitimate point: there’s a lot of talk about smart meters and deploying them and their benefits in general but much less in the way of specific examples of consumer engagement with smart grid (DOE raised consumer engagement here this morning at the NIST standards conference).

The first and easiest consumer benefit is providing detailed usage information that consumers have used in pilots to reduce total consumption by 5 to 15%. Voluntary smart (dynamic) prices are a second option requiring a bit more to implement. Appliance control requires still more effort, but is not far off – indeed smart thermostats are available today. A real world example is PowerCentsDCTM, where we are offering these things to consumers today.

Consumers are now seeing the charges on their monthly bills for smart meters and legitimately asking to see the direct benefits. Our role as the smart grid industry, and with eMeter’s particular software products, makes us the torch bearer for delivering the benefits consumers are seeking.

– Chris King


April 28, 2009 at 11:08 pm

Dynamic Pricing to Go mainstream

For years, even decades, utilities have run pilots of dynamic prices; Stimulus Bill funds are now making them mainstream.

Dynamic prices vary by time of day and reveal to consumers the true cost of peak and off-peak power. The flavors include time-of-use (peak and off-peak prices every day), critical peak (a flat price with a high-priced hammer for a few hours 10-15 days per year), peak time rebate (a flat price with an attractive rebate for reductions during the same critical peak hours), and hourly pricing (prices that change every hour and are posted a day ahead so consumers know about them). In the pilots, 80 to 90 percent of customers like dynamic prices, and they respond by reducing peak demand by 10 to 40 percent (the higher reductions come from automatic thermostat control).

The Department of Energy published draft rules for $3.3 billion of smart grid grants to be given to utilities and others over the next 18 months. Significantly, grant applications are expected to include dynamic pricing options for consumers. With an estimated 200 to 300 grants to be awarded, there will be that many utilities moving forward with dynamic pricing for at least some customers.

Dynamic pricing’s time has come.

– Chris King

April 23, 2009 at 8:00 am

Smart Grid Standards

There were two important events in the past week regarding Smart Grid standards. The National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST), a federal agency, announced its roadmap to develop standards. The Department of Energy (DOE) announced a grant award to the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) to perform much of the work. Both announcements include aggressive time schedules, with EPRI holding a stakeholder summit in Washington, D.C. next month (eMeter will attend) and completing its work before year’s end.

The standards effort is an essential element of smoothing the adoption path for policymakers in Congress and federal and state regulatory commissions. Having seen the success of standards in the PC industry and in the Internet, policymakers are eager to see similar results in Smart Grid. Fortunately, several standards are already available for consideration or already under adoption, such as the ZigBee standard for Home Area Networks (HANs).

The best thing about the NIST effort is that it will consolidate numerous other standards efforts ranging from OpenAMI and OpenSG to IEEE and ANSI standards. The industry will have a single place to go for definitive answers. Also, the guidelines are such that existing projects and rollouts will clearly be accommodated, with new standards applying at some point in the future.

– Chris King

April 16, 2009 at 8:00 am Leave a comment

What to make of alleged cyber attacks on the Smart Grid

Today’s Wall Street Journal reported on alleged cyberattacks on our electric grid, noting that none of the attacks had actually taken control of any systems, nor did the attacks cause any damage. Security, however, is one of those things one can never have enough of, so our emphasis as an industry should be on the things we are doing to increase the level of security.

At an industry level, the UtilityAMI Security task force-a consortium of utilities, security professionals, smart grid vendors (including eMeter), and a sub-committee of the Open Smart Grid Users Group has defined security requirements for Smart Grid. In addition, groups defining protocols for Smart Grid communications, such as Edison Electric Institute (EEI), American National Standards Institute (ANSI), International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC), Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), and ZigBee, have worked hard to ensure that appropriate security mechanism are embedded in their standards. Finally, the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) are continuing to evaluate existing standards.

Finally, what has the actual history of the smart grid industry been?

Many millions of smart meters and remotely controlled devices have been installed and operated by utilities, some going back for decades. To the best of our knowledge, neither the meters nor the devices have ever been subjected to a successful cyberattack, nor has there ever been an unauthorized disclosure of confidential customer information.

Chris King

April 8, 2009 at 8:00 am Leave a comment


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