Energizing the Smart Grid
Issue #102, June 2010
Table of Contents:
Visit Home Energy Metering.com
What is the Smart
Electric Bill Rates
Energy Saving Tips
What is the Smart
hear talk in the news about the Smart Grid, the Smart Grid Initiative
and Smart Meters. Let's take a look at what each of these
mean and what the home owner can expect to see from the outcome of this
First, let's look at the purpose behind the creation of the Smart Grid.
If we understand the why,
the how often
times makes more sense. Ever since deregulation and market
pricing emerged for electric power, government regulators and
utilities have been seeking a way to match consumption with generation.
Since most all grid power is consumed the instant it
achieving this match should delay construction of additional generation
facilities and reduce the purchase of energy from higher priced
sources. In theory, this should delay or slow the rate of
increase of electricity prices to the consumer.
In order to match
consumption with generation utilities want to know who is using what
amount of energy and when they are using it. This is where
smart meter enters the picture. Conventional residential
simply record the number of kilowatt-hours as the energy passes
through. Monthly readings are taken by the utility and the
bill is generated from the difference between the present and previous
Smart meters, on the other hand, record the amount of energy used, the power quality and the
power outage condition on a real-time or near real-time basis. This information is fed
back to the utility on a continuous basis through a communications
network. This consumption feedback, or demand and energy
gives the utility an accurate picture of what load they must match with
The combination of this communications network
integrated with the electrical distribution network is called the Smart
Grid. It encompasses power transmission and communications
between utilities and other utilities and utilities and their
customers which range from large industrial plants to individual homes.
In essence, it is huge. The combined effort between
government, utility, industry, academic and various consumer groups to
this is called the Smart Grid Initiative.
What can the
residential consumer or home owner expect from the Smart Grid Initiative?
First and foremost, electric rate structures will change.
Utilities will move away from conventional flat or tiered
and gravitate toward time-of-use (TOU) rates. These rates
higher prices during periods of peak demand (hot summer afternoons) and
lower prices during periods of lower demand (late at night).
utility's objective will be to use price as an incentive to curb energy
consumption behavior amongst customers.
For those who pay attention to their energy consumption
this can be a path to a lower electric bill. For those that
don't, penalties will be paid in terms of higher electric bills.
A home energy monitor system
can serve as a very useful tool when deciding how to shift electric
loads to take advantage of TOU rates. For example, setting
to turn on outdoor lighting or a pool pump when lower, off-peak rates
go into effect is one way to lower cost.
Secondly, utilities will seek to gain more control of how power is
delivered to and used by a customer. Customers will need to
understand constraints that may imposed by their electric tariff in the
Technology will emerge that will allow a utility to shut off
appliances in your home to help balance load with generation.
these caveats do emerge, they will be associated with the lowest
Do you want your thermostat to be bumped up
several degrees on a hot day without your input? How well
your clothes fare if the washer or dryer were shut off mid-cycle?
What would happen to dinner plans if power to the range was
delayed for an hour? Although these are hypothetical
the desired level of control to be maintained by the consumer is the
incentives are good as long as they don't cause undue interruptions in
your life style. As the Smart Grid emerges, be sure to have a
clear understanding of the new rate structures and how energy is
consumed in your home.
One of the major efforts currently under way as part of the Smart Grid
Initiative is the development of new standards for products that will
supporting the communication infrastructure within the Smart Grid.
will define how devices communicate electrical usage, power quality,
pricing and device control information.
Within this set of standards, energy information that serves the grid
is called managed energy and is controlled
by the utilities.
Energy information, internal to a building, is referred to as
and is controlled by the facility manager in a commercial or industrial
environment or the home owner in the residential world. The
of demarcation is the utility
meter which needs to be able to send information to both managed and
A number of organizations are developing standards pertinent to their
area of interest in the Smart Grid arena.
EIS Alliance, LonWorks, OpenADE,
and the ZIGbee Alliance
are just some of the
I am involved with the EIS Alliance group.
Depending upon their area of expertise, each group works through
the arduous and meticulous process of
defining every imaginable energy information communication scenario
with a different use case.
Separate use cases apply to the industrial, commercial and
residential domains but there is some overlap. From these use
cases a set of requirements are developed that describe what
is needed for each domain but do not yet delve into how it should be done.
Given the fact that a number of organizations are working on this
simultaneously, some overlap occurs. This overlap needs to be
between groups before the set of requirements can be finalized.
finalized, a draft specification is authored and posted for public and
specific comment. Multiple iterations of the post and review process
occur before the specification is submitted to a standards development
organization (SDO) for approval.
such as ASHRAE, NAESB,
or OASIS are likely candidates to
advance this process. These
certified organizations take
the draft specification with comments and develop the final standard to
submitted to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC)
The final standard defines the requirement and the method of
in such a way that manufacturers can produce products that will
and communicate with each other, offering, seamless
this process takes
years, but the Smart Grid Initiative
is pushing aggressive timetables in order to compress it into months.
standards will launch a plethora of new energy monitoring and tracking
in the commercial, industrial and residential markets. Home
will be able to offer a new level of control based on energy
energy monitoring will become more
precise by moving from the whole house and circuit level to the
device level with this new technology.
Tracking Energy Monitors
Several home energy
monitors offer the capability to track
individual circuits. If an energy monitor has more that two
channels, or current transformer (CT) inputs, it has the capability to
track additional circuits. The first two channels are always
to measure current from the two 120 volt feeders that enter
standard 120/240 volt main panel found in most homes.
The number of channels available for each meter featured in the circuit level monitor product table
are shown on the Measurement
row. These extra channels are typically used to track larger
loads such as air conditioners, heat pumps, hot water heaters, the
clothes dryer and/or the electric range. However, a standard
amp panel normally has forty circuits. Larger homes may have
amp service which uses two 200 amp panels and may branch to
additional sub-panels. Until now, it has not been possible to
measure all of circuits with a reasonably priced home energy
Dynamics recently released a new product called the eMonitor
which we have added to the home energy monitor product table.
The eMonitor can measure 12, 24, 36 or 48 circuits depending
the configuration you install. Graphics and electrical data by circuit
provide a wealth of information about how power is being consumed in
eMonitor contains an internal web server that connects to analysis
software on the Web for a nominal subscription fee of $8 to $16 per
month depending upon the number of circuits monitored. It
has ZIGbee communications capability that will drive a future display
and be able to exchange information with smart meters and devices
including control instructions. Interfaces with some home
automation systems are under development according to Powerhouse
Chris Hunt of PowerDownus.com has installed the
eMonitor in his home and was kind enough to share his review of the product.
He also put together a very informative video that covers
installation and shows how to use the system.
the retail price of the eMonitor starts around $700 for the twelve
circuit model, the added levels of information it provides will allow
you to find new ways to reduce your energy cost. This price
may be too high for a mid-sized home in the mid-south where energy
costs 8 to 10 cents per kilowatt-hour. However, a similar
home in California paying 30 to 44 cents per kilowatt-hour may find it
to be a wise investment.
A good rule of thumb when pricing
energy monitors is to not spend more than twice your average monthly
electric bill on a system. This way, using a conservative
estimate of 8-10 percent savings, you will recoup your energy monitor
investment within two years.
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