Experts take aim at smart grid/DR myths

Platts Electric Power Daily
July 15, 2020

By: Tom Tiernan

In a power industry version of the popular TV show Mythbusters, a panel of smart grid and demand response veterans this week tried to dispel several myths tied to utility efforts, touting mounds of evidence that often are overlooked by the media.

The notion that customers will not respond, either to prices or energy usage information in an effort to trim
demand, “is the oldest myth going” and it may stay around for another 10 years or so, said Ahmad Faruqui, principal with Brattle Group. Faruqui referred to a “great wall of evidence” from 109 different utility efforts around the world showing that consumers respond to several incentives as part of demand response efforts, with more than half of those 109 efforts reducing peak demand more than 10% and several showing peak reductions of 40% or more.

Steve George, principal with energy consulting firm Freeman, Sullivan & Co., challenged Faruqui’s assertion that the myth will stick around for several years. “I think it’s waning. The debate has moved on,” George said at the national town meeting in Washington held by the Association for Demand Response and Smart Grid.

Not all consumers will respond the same way, but the aggregate results show that consumers respond to price signals such as time-of-use rates, peak-time rebates and critical peak pricing plans, Faruqui said.

Low-income customers respond and benefit as well, as shown in Pepco’s PowerCents DC project in Washington and in other utility projects, added Chris King, chief regulatory officer at eMeter.

Addressing the myth of advanced meters being the equivalent of cell phones in terms of potential adverse health effects, King said the issue has been studied for decades by numerous government entities, with no findings of negative effects. Radio frequency emissions from an advanced meter are one four thousandth
of the emissions from a cell phone, King said.

Studies on groups of people claiming to be sensitive to RF emissions have put them in rooms with close proximity to smart meters, with no different results from a group that was in a room without exposure to smart meters, King said.

King also referred to “a lot of hype” about advanced meters not being secure and more vulnerable to computer hacking. With more than 100 million advanced meters in place around the world, “they’re all secure,” and the only known intrusion has been by a security consultant that broke into a smart meter at a conference and added a wire, not by accessing the meter through a computer or wireless device, King said.

Similarly, King tried to dispel the myth that smart grid technologies present the need for a new and unique set of data privacy safeguards, pointing out that California and Colorado are a few of the states looking at the issue, in addition to Congress. But the banking, financial services sector and telecom industries all do a lot of business electronically without rewriting privacy rules, and those businesses “are a lot more important than what my peak usage is,” said King.

Many utility demand-side management efforts include bill protection to customers for the first year, ensuring that customers will not pay more if they are on a TOU rate or other dynamic pricing plan compared with a traditional, flat rate. Whether that eliminates the load impact of a program was debated, with George referring to a reduced response rate given consumers’ lack of incentive, but the load effects did not disappear in the
programs he examined.

Faruqui said he views first-year bill protection plans as “training wheels on a bike,” and that most utilities and regulators will want them to protect consumers.

Dan Delurey, executive director of the Association for Demand Response and Smart Grid, said he had more than 20 myths to choose from to throw at the panelists, and some of them stem from media chatter or Internet stories perpetuating issues such as the health effects of advanced meters. In today’s society, just one person saying something in a public forum, whether it is true or not, can be picked up and repeated millions of times by other groups, Delurey said after the session.

In state regulatory proceedings, consumer advocates and others often bring up some of the myths discussed by the panel, “and we keep refuting them,” said George. “We have a good database of empirical evidence” based on years of experience in some demand response and advanced meter efforts, said George.

Platts Electric Power Daily

© 2016 Solar Electric Power Association    ::     1220 19th Street NW, Suite 800, Washington, D.C., 20036    ::   contact us

Periodic updates on news & events related to demand response and smart grid.

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software