We've covered a lot of ground in the past week, so let's dip into the forum to see what readers are saying.
Of course, as we'll see, as the subject strays towards, say, Glenn Beck and smart meters, the same old canards float to the surface.
In last week's column, "Independence Day: It's Complicated," I referred to Glenn Beck as a "psychotic narcissist," which I thought was a compliment for that self-absorbed, over-exposed television clown, who has taken up the cause of smart meters-as-the-instrument-of-United-Nations-bureaucrats-secretly-trying-to-control-your-lives. Not exactly a proposition designed to elicit thoughtful discussion of the need for opt-in dynamic rates and an automated means for customer response.
But we don't exactly live in an age of reason and rationality, so naturally we received a few comments from folks who, wittingly or unwittingly, sling some loaded terms around.
"If the concern of utilities is truly to gain insight into consumer electrical consumption patterns, they do not need individual smart meters on each consumer's location," writes Mark Wooldridge. "They can see the usage patterns just fine with metering of the circuits feeding specific areas. It is nice to have the information on energy consumption available to see when I use the most power at the house and then see what I may be able to do to adjust that but that can be done with a bit of common sense even without the smart meter.
"So, what is the point of individual smart meters if not to eventually push consumers into time-of-use-pricing?" Wooldridge asked. "Who do you think will feel the greatest burden of time-of-use pricing? Whether it is a one-world-government plan or not is certainly debatable but the fact is individual consumer smart meters are potentially very intrusive devices and history has shown that someone always comes up with a way to use such information for their own purposes, whether it is good for the consumers or not. And if some 'elitist' group got into positions of authority and felt they know better than everyone else exactly how everyone else should live, then the information from those meters is a pretty useful tool."
Here we have the notions that a) customers en masse will be forced to accept dynamic pricing; b) maybe there IS a movement toward one-world government; and c) the "elitists" will use meters to tell us "exactly how everyone should live." Of course, many state regulators have embraced an opt-out option for smart meters, one of the leading utility-side uses for smart meters is to perform voltage optimization and (it is claimed) to improve outage notification and restoration. Of course, current utility rates (flat rates for all) represent socialism at its very worst, but perhaps I digress.
"I'm not a UN black helicopters type of person, but I do have some concerns about smart meters," wrote Milton Scritsmier, who continued with subversive remarks not only about Xcel Energy but about the possible formation of a Boulder municipal utility. "Every month Xcel reports to Boulder each Boulder customer's total use of electricity so that customer can be taxed by Boulder for its Kyoto compliance project. So already our individual usage is identified to outside parties. I'm not sure how much of a violation this is. After all, I pay a sales tax to the city at the grocery store based on my total purchases. But in that case the city does not know who is making the purchase. And the technology similar to smart metering exists where, for example, the city could tax me more for purchasing ice cream instead of broccoli. Most people would be upset by this, so why not with smart metering?"
Well, either Boulder is a socialist state or it's Big Brother incarnate, but I'm confused on how it can be both. But I do conclude that no matter who delivers your electricity and no matter what technology is used, you have virulent mistrust involved. That doesn't bode well for a rational discussion of utility rate structures and possible reforms.
But I hand our readers the floor once again. Please choose from among the following list the notion you most closely associate with smart meters: a secret U.N. plan for one-world government; a tool for whomever gets the data to harass, intimidate and embarrass homeowners; a secret plan to over-tax ice cream and under-tax broccoli; or all of the above.
I'm smilin' and not just because it's Friday.
Intelligent Utility Daily