Can't Have a Smart Grid with Dumb Meters
Clean energy isn't just about the fuel that delivers the energy or the mechanism that uses it. Enormous savings can be had by improving what comes in between. Our friends at Good, together with graphic designer Oliver Munday, offer this impressive infographic showing the potential benefits of a "smart grid" system:
What jumped out at me was that the single most important technical improvement would be widespread use of "smart meters," the new-generation electrical meters that record information in tiny increments, and report it to utilities and consumers frequently. Power companies can tailor their supply to meet the demand, while consumers can save money by, for example, running appliances at off-hours when prices are cheaper.
Unfortunately, there is no environmental action without an equal and opposite reaction, and Sierra's home in Northern California is the epicenter of anti-smart meter hysteria. Last month, opponents in Marin County convinced their board of supervisors to declare a one-year moratorium on installation of the devices. The issue has also captured the imagination of Tea Partiers, who "have raised concerns about how the utility would use the information about individuals' appliance use." ("Quite frankly you really don't need to know if I ran my margarita blender 40 times one one night," wrote one commenter to Todd Woody's story on the subject at Grist.) Still concerned? Check out Jess Zimmerman's fine column, "Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions About Smart Meters."