Smart Meters: Why should I care?

Picture this, an electrical grid perfectly balancing generation, demand and distribution. A grid that is capable of accommodating abundant wind, solar and other renewable sources of energy into its system without issue or complication. On the rare occasion that problems occur, they are quick to be resolved. Such a technological wonder is not only possible but is already under way and it has started with the mass deployment of smart meters, so why then is there so much opposition towards them?

Smart Meter

Smart meters like this one are being deployed across North America

For those that don’t know, a smart meter is a device that collects a building’s energy use along with the time it was used which is then sent to the utility companies via Wi-Fi network at set intervals per day. Utilities will then use this data to get a more accurate, up-to-date picture of demand and consumption, which will make the grid easier to manage.

Currently, many utility companies across North America are installing smart meters at peoples’ homes and businesses as part of a greater vision to build a smart grid. There has been, however, a significant amount of resistance to them in many areas. In British Columbia, many groups have sprung up vehemently opposing smart meters. In a more extreme example, some families in Texas have been threatening utility workers at gun point to prevent smart meter installations. Such resistance to a seemingly benign piece of hardware has raised concerns over privacy invasion and health risks. However, are these legitimate concerns? Are these groups just buying into their own paranoia? Looking into this subject, it seems like logic and science are being ignored at the expense of innovation and progress.

BC Residents Protest smart meters

British Columbia has become a hot bed of smart meter opposition

Much opposition towards smart meters is that fact that they monitor a building’s energy usage throughout the day. Some are concerned that this is an invasion of privacy and is akin to a form of surveillance. Although smart meters will give utilities a more accurate picture of how much energy you’re consuming throughout the day, utilities will not know how you’re using that energy. This is similar to how we already deal with our internet service providers (ISP). Most ISPs will know how much bandwidth you’ve used, but they won’t know whether your bandwidth was used for downloading, uploading, streaming, etc. Privacy hasn’t been violated; the ISP is merely collecting your bandwidth usage so that they can bill you for the services they provide. Utilities will work in the exact same manner (as they do now), the only real change brought about by smart meters is that utilities will now gather your energy data via Wi-Fi signals, which is the other main area of concern for smart meter opponents.

The radio frequency (RF) radiation emitted by a smart meter’s Wi-Fi component is often cited as a major health risk by smart meter opponents. However, given the common sources of RF radiation, it seems short-sighted to villainize smart meters. Any wireless device will emit RF radiation; this includes cell phones, wireless routers, radios, garage door openers, etc. According to the American Cancer Society, cell phones will emit significantly more RF radiation than a smart meter and at a closer distance as cell phones are often pressed against a person’s ear whereas a smart meter is usually located outside of a building. Furthermore, a smart meter doesn’t emit RF radiation continuously like a cell phone; it will only emit when sending data to the utility. This is all making the assumption that the amount of RF radiation emitted by cell phones even poses a health risk in the first place, which modern science has flatly refuted. Frankly, the Sun is a far more dangerous emitter of radiation (and a proven cause of cancer) than any cell phone or smart meter, but that doesn’t seem to stop smart meter opponents from stepping outside to protest.

Sun

Beware, it could actually kill you… unlike a smart meter

The proven benefits of smart meters outweigh any inconclusive (or downright false) claims surrounding them. As more and more buildings have them installed, the grid will become far more interconnected in terms of its ability to share energy data information with utilities. It will make our grid more efficient, more responsive, and could potentially save us billions of dollars in the long run. But all this could be delayed or even prevented if smart meters continue to be opposed for illogical reasons. Now is not the time to let stupidity impede progress.

Advertisements

Energy Managers make all the difference

Recently, Natural Resources Canada released a report highlighting the success that embedded Energy Managers had on the Resource Sector (Mining and Gas).  These Energy Managers were able to make a significant impact on the businesses they were part of in a short period of time.

Below is a summary of the article and the successes that have been realized through the hiring of energy managers across British Columbia.

A study conducted a few years ago by BC Hydro – the Conservation Potential Review – found that the mining sector could achieve energy savings of up to 400 gigawatt hours annually. Steve Quon, Mining, Oil & Gas Sector Manager at BC Hydro’s Power Smart, says that as a result of the study, Power Smart partnered with the Mining Association of British Columbia (MABC) to look for key areas to target for energy savings. The subsequent hiring of energy managers at seven mine sites across the province was a major step in realizing those energy savings.

“Energy managers are a good story for everyone,” says Quon, noting that by having an energy manager on staff, continuous improvement is possible, and sustainability and energy efficiency become part of normal business practices. This increases operational efficiency, which is essential to the mining sector because it is British Columbia’s second largest electrical customer.

Quon explains that BC Hydro, in conjunction with the MABC, also conducted an all-fuels baseline audit, which was piloted at Walter Energy™-Western Coal’s Wolverine mine and Thompson Creek Metals Company Inc.’s Endako mines. The all-fuels baseline audit provides a detailed snapshot of energy use and waste at a mine site. It can be used yearly to compare trends in energy consumption and efficiency over time; and it can be used to compare mine sites. The audit is also a natural complement to the Mining Association of Canada’s Towards Sustainable Mining strategy.

“All of these initiatives align very well, but in order to fully implement them, a dedicated person – an energy manager – is needed,” notes Quon. Several mining companies had the information needed to move ahead but lacked the champion to make projects happen. Consequently, Power Smart offered to provide significant funding for hiring industrial energy managers to remove any financial and human resource barriers.

This allowed the following mines to hire energy managers: Highland Valley Copper mine, Thompson Creek Endako mine, Copper Mountain Mining Corporation mines, Agfa’s New Gold mine, Teck’s coal mine and Walter Energy-Western Coal’s Wolverine mine.

Most of the energy managers were hired in 2011, and although it is difficult to attribute energy savings directly to their presence, Quon says that the link is surely there. “What is equally important is that energy managers can make the business case for energy efficiency projects and ensure that energy efficiency is built into every project,” concludes Quon.

Visit BC Hydro Power Smart’s Web site for energy efficiency programs for the mining sector, including its offer for energy managers.

Thanks for reading.

BC Hydro Power Smart Forum

Recently Energent particpated in the BC Hydro Power Smart Forum at the Vancouver Convention Centre.  Energent was pleased to be involved in many aspects of the event, including their Continuous Optimization Workshop and their Industrial Alliance Program.

BC Hydro’s Continuous Optimization Program (COPs Program) has been widely regarded as a model for other electricity utilities to develop a commercial building electricity conservation initiative.  Energent is proud to be one of only three providers of the Energy Management software (EMIS) to provide the Monitoring, Targeting, and Reporting (MT & R) capabilities for commercial buildings in British Columbia.  By participating in this workshop, Energent was able to show commercial building operators how to utilitze the real time alerting and management by exception to reduce electricity waste, increase the overall building efficiency, and gain significant insight into the operations of the building.

If you are interested in finding out more about the Continuous Optimization program in British Columbia contact  Energent to find out more information.

We also spent a considerable amount of time with our partner Energy Advantage, who were celebrating their 15th birthday, at the Power Smart Forum.  Energy Advantage and Energent, along with Joey Restaurant, threw a great party for our clients, partners, and friends on Oct. 18th.  Everyone was having a good time, talking about the great Vancouver weather, food and drink, as well as the company.  Everyone left that party “energized” and ready to develop the latest and greatest energy conservation projects, and most importantly, TRACK those results.

Thanks to everyone that came to visit Energent at our booth, during our workshops, or at the Energy Advantage event.  We look forward to continued success in British Columbia and beyond.

Thanks for reading.