I was just reading my Sioux Valley Energy newsletter when I came upon another really good explanation (available here in PDF) of how the smart grid will save you and me money.
Sioux Valley Energy is getting $4 million in stimulus money to cover about half the cost of installing 23,000 smart meters—that's a meter for everyone Sioux Valley juices up. Once those meters are installed, Sioux Valley will be able to implement variable power pricing based on peak load and time of day. When demand spikes, utilities have to buy more expensive supplementary power. The power I use for my computer during peak hours costs more than the power I use in the middle of the night. Smart meters will allow Sioux Valley to charge me different rates for the power I consume based on when I use it.
Sioux Valley CEO Don Marker explains it this way in his column in the December newsletter:
The idea is that these smart meters will allow you to monitor, whether that be through the Internet, via email or by text messages, your electric usage at any given point in time. So you can make the choice whether or not to run your dishwasger when the price of electricity is really high, or wait until the price goes down. In the future, "smart" appliances will allow you to program them to coordinate with the price of electricity [Don Marker, "$4-Million Grant for Smart Grid: Unique Opportunity or SVE Members," Sioux Valley Energy Connections, Dec. 2009].
Smart meters will let us see electricity prices on our computers the same way we see gas prices on the signs all over town. We'll see the numbers right in front of us, and we'll be able to adjust our power usage to save some money. (Of course, I suppose it's possible that there could be some crazy reverse feedback spike when we pennypinchers see the electricity price suddenly drop, shout "Buy Buy Buy!" and all crank up our washing machines at once. Smart meters should make a great thesis topic for some eager MBA!)
Sioux Valley says the smart grid technology will help it put off building new power plants and infrastructure, which means of perhaps $4 million a year. In other words, Sioux Valley's eight-million-dollar investment—half from customers, half from taxpayers and deficit spending via the stimulus—could pay for itself in two years. Hmmm... looks like all that deficit spending could actually leave more money in our grandkids' pockets.
Smart grid technology makes sense whether you're a treehugger or a pennypincher. Let a few fringe elements try to stir Big Brother fears; I'm ready for Sioux Valley to hook me up and save me some money!