18 Oct 2010

‘Smart Meters Giving Dumb Results’ – a preview from Canadian media

Written by Jim Pierobon

A slew of criticism in the Canada’s mainstream media recently suggests tough sledding ahead for utilities globally as they slip and slide onto to smarter grids.

Will the execution of time-of-using pricing match the 'creativity" of Ontario Hydro's logo?

Consider these headlines, all since the middle of September, on Ontario Hydro’s move to introduce time-of-use pricing. It’s newly launched program is designed to encourage electricity consumers to reduce consumption and run appliances during periods of lower demand, when power tends to come from cheaper, cleaner sources.

The Provincial government led Premier Dalton McGuinty has spent more than $1-billion trying to explain it — apparently not all that successfully. The effort is complicated by a new Green Energy Act, and a new sales tax that took effect July 1, which added 8-per-cent to electricity bills. Add the higher prices for electricity during peak periods and you have a potent one-two punch to consumer pocketbooks. Not the best timing dare we say.

Are you frying your eggs at 4 a.m. yet,” — The Financial Post

“Smart meters give dumb results: critics,” — The Globe and Mail

“Smart meters are here, get over it,” — Toronto Star

Needless to say, the initial read by Canadian newspapers about how smart grid applications are supposed to work is not a favorable one, at least by these three examples. As you can read for yourself, Ontario Hydro appears to be struggling especially with the expectations of consumers and critics in the media in delivering on the potential for smart meters and advanced metering infrastructures. Smart grid professionals are monitoring user feedback very carefully for lessons they can learn.

“There’s no sense of pride for taking the lead and having vision,” wrote Toronto Star columnist Tyler Hamilton on October 7. ” The mere mention of ‘smart meter’ seems to raise the hackles of Ontario electricity consumers who feel they have been ‘victimized’ by time-of-use pricing.  . . . One year has passed. The first bills have come in. They’ve had enough with the injustice of it all.”

Wrote Lawrence Solomon in the Financial Post September 18: “Because Mr. McGuinty can’t retool his favoured technologies (nuclear power and wind energy) to get them to conform to the schedules of Ontarians, he has decided to retool Ontarians to get them to conform to the operating schedules of his (smart) technologies. This he is doing by punishing people and businesses who consume power at inconvenient times through high rates, to cajole them into shifting their usage to lower-cost off-peak periods.”

And this via Karen Howlett in The Globe and Mail in Toronto:  Norma-Jean Campbell, a dog breeder in southwestern Ontario, said she got a rude surprise when she opened her latest hydro bill. It had increased to $130 from about $100.  “Where is this going to go?” Ms. Campbell said in an interview published September 14. “I feel powerless.”

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