January 18th, 2014

Something About Smart Grids and Regulation: possible Link Fu to Ensue

I was "reading the newspaper", which for me means going to google news and seeing what looks interesting. In this case, it was a ComputerWorld article about how the internet of things is Nevuh Gonna Happen (I exaggerate, obvs):

http://www.computerworld.com/s/article/9245507/Why_the_Internet_of_Things_may_never_happen?taxonomyId=18

I asked R., my husband, about the relative difficulty of setting up the Nest thermostat, vs. the Brother laser printer, vs. the Pioneer AirPlay speaker, on the premise that these were all Things Around the House that are connected. I wasn't counting laptops and kindles and other mobile devices, because I'm pretty sure those aren't what people mean by the internet of things.

They were all not too bad. The AirPlay speaker had a USB port where he could connect his iPhone and copy the wireless info over that way. The printer is plugged into the network directly. The Nest connects more or less the same way a mobile device would. This then turned into speculation about why the power company was willing to pay us $100 to get a Nest (which costs more than that), as R. figured it wasn't going to be much of an energy savings over our previously programmed programmable thermostat. I pointed out that most people don't actually program their thermostats, so the Nest would be an improvement over a dumb one or a smart but unprogrammed one. And then we wound up discussing Massachusetts law/regulation/planning and smart meters and smart grids. He made an assertion that I just flat out said Could Not Possibly Be True and, in the event, was not true. However, there was something underneath that.

From last summer:

http://www.bostonglobe.com/business/2013/05/31/smart-meter-opponents-raise-concerns-over-health-security-privacy/ih0mDiFujPrF8yqAeJ2DeO/story.html

More recently:

http://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/massachusetts-makes-smart-grid-mandatory

"Monday’s order (PDF) from the state’s Department of Public Utilities will require the state’s big utilities to submit a ten-year grid modernization plan (GMP) in the next six months. Advanced metering will be required as part of that plan -- a significant development in a state which has seen almost no smart meters deployed to date.

These upcoming smart meter plans will need to include technology and business cases, not just for core automated meter reading functions, but for a range of additional features like outage detection and restoration, smart appliance communication and control capability, and support of power quality and conservation voltage reduction."

What does that mean? Well, the state regulates the utilities, and as the utility regulator, it required the utilities to Make a Plan that included certain elements. This is a _far cry_ from actual implementation -- nobody budgets more than two years out (hey! capital planning != budgeting), and implementation is driven by the budget process. This is an effort to move stuff from the Realm of Dreams and Fantasy to the Realm of Possible Choices We Could Make.

The only mandatory element is the document.

Of course I am happy to see that this is happening, however, I suspect that R. is not correct in thinking our meter qualifies as a smart meter (do smart meters which satisfy the criteria even exist yet? I don't see how they could, given that ComputerWorld article! The smart appliance C&C requirement, in particular). Our meter supports a meter reader driving around with a little radio device, but I understand a true smart meter to be able to push/pull data without requiring a human in the loop (presumably either through the cellular network, or a utility system WAN or whatever). Inevitably, a whole lot of people are Concerned and pushing for opt out provisions (opt out provisions for a fee already exist in some utilities, there are attempts in New England -- land of people who oppose sewers! -- to force opt out for free; unclear how successful any of these are/will be/will remain).

I'm going to dig around and see how the Smart Appliance C&C technology is progressing.

Hackers and smart appliances:

http://rt.com/usa/hack-refrigerator-home-appliances-747/

Quotes Proofpoint saying that "at least one refrigerator that had been compromised and used as a platform to launch attacks"

I'm _still_ giggling, altho I probably should not be. Each device was part of a large spam campaign, largely because nobody changed/set default passwords. I love lastpass and all, but I'm pretty sure I don't want to have to manage passwords on every fucking appliance in my house so please don't make me adopt this crap before you figure out how to make them secure by default and/or integrate smoothly with what I'm already doing to maintain security on my other devices (hint: password manager integration! or something even better, preferably).

More seriously, which appliances really need to interface with the smart grid? Not your fucking oven, that's for sure. You're going to cook when you're going to cook, but you could maybe delay when you run your dishwasher, dryer, and you might be willing to let the power company adjust the settings on your water heater, air conditioning, furnace, etc., to save you some bucks during high usage periods.

Dunno if this is relevant:

http://www.macrumors.com/2014/01/08/haier-mfi-smart-appliance/

I don't think smart fridges have any real energy savings potential (altho hey, feel free to explain how they could).

A/C (letting the grid turn the temp up when there is high demand and letting it be where you really want it to be when the demand is comparatively low) makes a ton of sense to me. However:

http://www.smartgridnews.com/artman/publish/End_Use_Efficiency/Super-efficient-AC-Help-for-regions-with-high-energy-demand-5749.html/

Basically, most installed residential A/c is horribly inefficient, and it is that way for a reason: efficient A/C costs a lot of money up front. The builder will tend to put in a piece of crap because the homeowner will be the one paying the utility bills. A homeowner who buys A/C may or may not have the money up front to buy an efficient unit (and may or may not _know_ the importance of buying an efficient unit). A not-so-smart but highly efficient A/C universe might save more power than we'll ever get out of a smart grid (no theory on which is more expensive -- we probably ought to insist that all the new stuff made meet higher efficiency regulations AND be connectable).

Weather Not As Predicted

Throughout the day, the forecast has lagged reality. It was predicting an inch of snow, until after we had more than an inch. Then it was 1-2, until well after it was looking like 3 around here. Now, 3-5.

One wonders what's ultimately going to land around here, altho it does seem to finally be slowing down some. R. is out running the snow blower; I shoveled to the mailbox earlier. It's very heavy snow, so it would be ideal snow building weather, if anyone around here felt like doing that. Instead, A. is lobbying to set up the kiddie pool. Yeah, right.