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Smart grid dangers not considered?

Today I once again turn the floor over to our readers, who range from lay people to electrical engineers. You too should know what your fellow readers are saying. So if you missed any of the following commentary, take a minute to understand who sits in the audience next to you.

In my colleague Kate Rowland's piece earlier this month, "From Health Claims to Orwellian Accusations ...," she remarked on her visceral reaction to the protestors disrupting proceedings at the California Public Utilities Commission while it considered opt-out options for the very people disrupting the hearing. Protestors yelled "crimes against humanity!" and demanded that their fellow ratepayers pay for their decision to opt-out. Most of those protestors come from affluent communities that on average earn a great deal more than the average Californian.

"In reality ... the vast majority of utility customers are either looking forward to the benefits of smart meters or trust that their utility isn't conspiring to harm them in some way with smart meters," one writer said. "It is the vocal few who are creating such a stir and adding significant cost to utility operations through their delusional opposition."

"It's not about facts, it about who yells the loudest, gets the most TV facetime, or acquires the most 'mind share,'" another reader suggested. "Utilities have to accept some responsibility for some of the embarrassing ignorance exhibited by the public with regard to smart meters and various risks imposed by wireless communications. In the haste to grab ARRA money, they thought they could install the technology first and worry about selling the public later. It really wouldn't have been that hard to provide some simple tools that would have demonstrated the value of higher resolution energy consumption data."

One writer was having none of this. The coincidence of a tragedy convinced her that "crimes against humanity" was a justified charge.

"Regarding the woman who considered the ruling a 'crime against humanity,' you forgot to mention that she was upset because her neighbor's newborn baby has leukemia," this person wrote. "They live, she had shared during public comments, in one of the first places in California to get smart meters, and her neighbor was exposed to smart meter radiation during her pregnancy. It would be hard to identify what caused the baby's leukemia, but babies with cancer as well as all children are more vulnerable to RF radiation than adults."

In "Colorado Springs Utilities: Getting It Done," I wrote about a modest-sized municipal utility that had tightened its belt considerably and found areas for cost savings that confirmed the staff's professionalism. (As difficult as it was to write a "positive story," I did so.) Apparently some readers found this approach refreshing.

"I have worked with public power groups over the last few years and find those engagements fascinating," one correspondent wrote. "The almighty dollar does not drive their behavior; seeking superb customer service at the lowest possible price, while maintaining 'local control' are the key performance indicators that motivate their behavior. In my case, I found public power members to be extremely professional and very dedicated to their work mission."

"Too often the press seems to look for the negative side of things so most of what we read (or see on TV) is sensationalized to draw attention," another writer added. "This article was like a breath of fresh air and I wanted to compliment you in the hopes that we can see more articles like this one where the focus is on the positive."

In "OGE's Three-tiered Architecture Aids Data Analysis," we discussed Oklahoma Gas & Electric's approach to "Big Data" and the IT systems designed to handle it and output business intelligence insights.

"OGE's clear direction (no more fossil fuel plants until 2020) and culture of collaboration is a big step forward," one admirer wrote. "Data analytics can help to break down silos and facilitate collaboration if the culture supports it. Great to see OGE is moving in the right direction. This is a good model to follow, and I look forward to hearing about OGE's successful outcomes."

Finally, we looked at energy storage proceedings at the California Public Utilities Commission in "Influencing Energy Storage Policy in California." In that piece I noted the players, tried to represent their sometimes contrasting views and give a sense of how regulators are approaching the issue.

"It is interesting that investor-owned, rate-regulated utilities would be opposed to storage procurement targets," one reader said. "Utilities generally generate excess cash flow and need to make investments in new infrastructure to make good use of that cash. Having the CPUC direct, or strongly encourage, a specific level of investment should remove, or reduce, an element of risk in making infrastructure investment. After all, how can the CPUC disallow recovery and find investment in energy storage to be imprudent if the CPUC drove that investment in the first place?

"Even if the directive were to procure third-party storage services, rather than directly invest in new storage capacity, that would open lower-risk opportunities to meet RPS mandates and invest in new transmission facilities to serve remotely located intermittent generation sources. In the absence of a CPUC mandate to invest in some level of energy storage, the utilities are open to being second guessed later by the CPUC."

Enough for now. Enjoy the weekend.

Phil Carson
Intelligent Utility Daily






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