Tuesday, October 20, 2009

"mlgwglen" Comments

For those of you keeping up, there have been quite a few comments over at the CA site in regard to the Smart Grid article. Our very own “mlgwglen” has been answering questions in the comment section. I am sharing his responses with you below:

This is a nationwide effort
One thing I want to emphasize is that this is part of a national initiative to improve the electrical grid and bring it up to speed in terms of its technological capabilities. Moreover, the overall goal is to help people use less energy. Smart meters are being installed nationwide.

This will improve reliability
Smart meters are but one component of Smart Grid. There's also automation distribution, which essentially means improving reliability. Aside from the meters, Smart Grid enhancements would allow MLGW to detect outages faster and isolate them so that they affect fewer customers.

Time of Use (TOU) Metering typically is Opt-In
Smart Grid gives us the capability to provide time of use (TOU) metering, but it doesn’t necessarily mean we would implement it. TVA has discussed TOU metering as a possibility, but it would likely be several years in the future if they chose to do this. Smart grid will give customers the tools and information to save substantially on their utility bills in the event that TVA implements time-of-use rates. TOU has typically been an opt-in program for other utilities, and hence must have an incentive for customers to opt in. That incentive would be discounts customers get for using off-peak time energy.

Security is Key
We will not be selling any customer data. Also, security is a big part of our request for proposals (RFPs). Once the RFPs are complete, we'll have greater knowledge of the security measures that the potential vendors will bring to the table. As with any type of technology in today's business world, data security is a top concern.

This will help with saving energy
The key to lowering utility bills with smart meters is that customers have a wealth of real-time information about their utility usage that they've never had before. Our goal is to transform customers into informed consumers. The information will let you know when you are using the most energy and give feedback on how small changes that you make affect that usage. This is the type of positive reinforcement that a monthly bill simply does not provide. The primary goal is to get people to use less energy, and if they do that, the bills will be lower.

The goal of Smart Grid is not for MLGW to monitor individual customers -- it's more about automation of processes and increasing the amount of information that is available to the customers, with the ultimate goal of reducing energy usage. We want our customers to use wisely for lower bills and less impact on the environment. MLGW has nothing to gain by asking our customers to use less other than helping our customers manage their bills.

With Smart Grid, the information is there for customers to use as they see fit. Energy usage in the home would remain a consumer decision -- you'd just have more information to help you make that decision. The issues you describe for our senior and/or low income customers are issues with or without Smart Grid, and both MLGW and other local agencies have programs to try to address them. I will take advantage of the subject matter to mention one such program, our Winter Moratorium for Seniors, for which we are accepting applications now through Nov. 15.

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