There is a Chinese proverb “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”.
The same can be said about energy conservation. Give Albertans free lightbulbs and they will save energy for the life of the bulb. Teach Albertans how to conserve energy and they will save energy in many aspects of their life for their entire lifetime.
At a time where doing our part for the environment can mean a life-or-death difference in the next few decades for a multitude of people and ecosystems as reported by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, using our resources as effectively as possible to enact change has never been more important.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, some hold the opinion that a carbon tax is simply a redistribution of wealth and a hoax.
Regardless of your views, dump the tax or not, the reality is that billions are being taken out of your pockets.
What should Alberta spend the carbon tax on? Here is a suggestion: Smart Metering as part of an intelligent grid. It is time to consider the real value of using predictive data and rate planning to help consumers reduce energy consumption and shift loads to make the best use of renewable generation.
But what comes before the concept of an intelligent grid is intelligent policies, strategies and programs.
What are Smart Meters and Why Do They Matter?
First, it is important that you understand some terminology that we will be using throughout this blog.
The Grid: the electric grid, a network of transmission lines, substations, transformers, and more that deliver electricity from the generation facilities to your home or business.
Smart Meter: an electronic device that records consumption of electric energy in intervals of an hour or less and communicates that information back to a utility for monitoring and billing. A smart meter consists of hardware and software components. Hardware includes handheld devices, meter, hubs, storage devices, transceivers, powerline communication (PLC) modems, LCD display, and others, while software includes a meter data management system, meter data analytics software, network management software, and others.
Smart Grid: an electrical grid which includes a variety of operational and energy measures including smart meters, smart appliances, renewable energy resources, and energy efficient resources.
A two-way communications network linked to a smart meter is one of the major building blocks in creating a smart grid. Devices that will give consumers greater control over monitoring their energy use online and finding out which activities are increasing their energy costs are available today.
Investing in smart meters and a smart electricity grid is where we believe we should be focusing our efforts. This investment would increase reliability, availability, and efficiency of our electric system and will benefit not only consumers, but the environment as well.
Some benefits of a smart grid include:
- Reduce power consumption at the consumer level during peak hours
- Provide homeowners with timely information on their energy consumption
- Enable consumers to adjust their habits in order to lower their electricity bills
- Monitors the electric system quickly
- Provides real-time data that is useful for balancing electric loads
- Allow grid energy storage for distributed generation load-balancing and enable distributed generation sources such as photovoltaic (PV) arrays, wind turbines, micro hydro, and combined heat and power generators to connect to the grid
- Eliminate or contain grid failures
- Reduce emissions
The Internet of Things
Elsewhere in the world, progressive utilities and governments are increasingly viewing smart grid technology as a strategic infrastructural investment that will enable their long-term economic prosperity and help them to achieve their carbon emission reduction targets. The EU introduced a strategic energy technology plan in 2006 for the development of a smart electricity system over the next 30 years.
In other parts of the world systems have been implemented that allow consumers to view energy use by month, by day or by hour. Additionally, consumers are provided access to a variety of retail plans designed to help control their energy usage and costs, as well as a system that produces energy alerts by email or text when the cost of electricity is approaching higher prices.
Smart Meters are the first step toward turning our power grid into an intelligent, integrated network. In the future we will be buying more and more smart appliances and building smart homes. In a future where the possibility exists for us to maximize the benefits of living in a networked community – It will be unfortunate if one of the key pieces of the puzzle is forgotten. We would be wiser to be working towards automating the way our home energy is used rather than gifting everyone with free lightbulbs.
We need to be focused on smart solutions.
Why hasn’t the industry gone in this direction here in Alberta? The high cost of these meters and management of high volumes of data can be concerning factors and have slowed the market development of these tools.
If we are collecting billions in Carbon Tax revenue, then why not invest the money wisely? Doing so would help everyone in the future. Subsidies and the governments rebates for energy efficient appliances is akin to giving consumers a fish for the day. It is not the solution.
According to the Smart Grid Policy Handbook 2018, the factors that will drive the smart grid market include:
- Climate change agreement
- Use of renewable energy sources
- Adoption of electric vehicles (EVs)
- Energy efficiency methods
In Alberta, should we be considering making a conscious effort and investing in creating a Home Area Network by linking Smart Meters together with Smart Appliances?
If we could connect smart devices to the meter, we could give consumers the ability to automate home energy usage. If near-real-time data is shared with the consumer through their retailer using smart phone applications and other broadband connection devices, they could easily and automatically respond to grid conditions congestion issues, volatility in the market, or the availability of increased green energy. When the wind is blowing or the sun is shining – turn on the dishwasher or other interconnected appliances and shave the peak power surges.
The software segment of this new industry can be grouped into Meter Data Management Systems (MDMS), Meter Data Analytics (MDA), and software communication. Once the electricity market goes down this path, it will be easier to expand the systems developed for the electricity market to other areas such as gas and water conservation applications.
Invest in technology to help reduce our carbon footprint, as electricity is the most easily controlled form of energy. With a smart grid, we have the power to greatly reduce carbon emissions. Everything about the smart grid is geared toward reducing our need for fossil fuel resources. It will also help consumers reduce their monthly utility bill.
We should be finding ways of motivating consumers and helping them understand how to save money and conserve energy. Focusing on creating a smart grid will transform the way we use electricity.
Want to do your part for the environment? Get Energy provides an opportunity for customers to green all or a portion of their electricity consumption. It is simple and affordable. For an average home that uses 800 kWh/month, greening 30% of your electricity consumption would only cost about $0.13 a day. That’s less than $4 a month.
Go green today!