Posted by: jmtoriel | October 20, 2011

Why we should not dumb down the smart meters in BC

The impression that the installations are “being rammed down our throats” (much like the HST was) is what has created the pushback — not the fact that it is a better technology that will allow residential and commercial power consumers to better monitor their consumption and/or apply it to power generating mechanisms, like PV solar, small wind turbines down the road.

Perhaps most promising is the application of plug-in vehicles (battery electric vehicles or BEV and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles or PHEVs) with smart meters and a smart grid.

There is much talk about the impacts smart meters will have on us and how the roll-out has been conducted. Fair enough, but I ask you to consider the emissions side of the equation for 1 moment. Given the BC government is legislated to reduce its overall emissions by 33% below 2007 levels by 2020 (and most municipalities in BC have signed onto this or more far-reaching targets), much has to be done to achieve significant reductions. While our grid is predominantly “clean” by national and international standards (>90% renewable sources most of which is hydro), it restricts the mechanisms to achieving this wothout looking at the breakdown of emissions by sectors — the largest contributor being TRANSPORTATION (37%).

How does this link to smart meters?… Well, much research is being done on what is called Vehicle to Grid or V2G technologies that would allow utilities, like BC Hydro, to access stored power during peak periods. Essentially, it would allow consumers to sell power back to the grid because smart meters are functionally bi-directional.

Now, say you have a plug-in electric vehicle (EV) that is fully charged in your garage and you have installed PV solar panels on your roof and it is a peak period for power. You would, in principle, be able to sell your stored power (that is currently not in use) back to the grid that would, in turn, go towards reducing your electricity bill. Keep in mind that 80% of EV/PHEV charging will be at night during off-peak and so capacity will not be greatly affected. In fact, some have argued that it encourages renewable forms of energy, like wind, that are more conducive to windier periods that occur at night — a particularly important factor for less densely inhabited and isolated communities like Haida Gwaii that often rely on dirty (and expensive) diesel generators for power.

Now, imagine a large commercial delivery fleet as a business that is looking to reduce costs, be taxed less (think no carbon tax!) and further reduce emissions or a municipal fleet striving to reach emissions targets and save from not having to pay so much in offsets…. Electrification is that much more attractive and measurable thanks to the smart meters. It also provides businesses and consumers alike to have a viable alternative to the climate altering, market unstable, international security destablizing, dirty, and unhealthy reliance to fossil fuels for energy use in electricity and transportation.

The opportunities really open up when you look at the full picture. We can have our cake and eat it too.

So, while the means to bring new policies forward has been less desireable and the perceived negative impacts to civil liberties and wireless interference effects on our health should not be overlooked (however unproven as the case may be), the rational merits (generally neglected by the conflict-oriented mainstream media and outspoken nay-sayers) are perhaps the most significant to the actual “sustainable” energy of our province.

Bring in the smart meters, keep the carbon tax, bring in incentives to electric vehicles and charging equipment (as Ontario and Quebec have done) and the lower the costs to the consumer — emissions will follow.

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