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Harvesting the Smart Meter

Smart meters represent a major infrastructural change in our energy delivery industry. It’s gone smoothly in some places and has met with fierce resistance in others.

  • The promise is that we will receive more detailed information about how we use power, allowing us to make smarter decisions.
  • The gray zone is that the power companies can actually come in and adjust our energy usage once a full smart grid is in place.
  • And the dark zone is that the energy companies are making money selling the personal data so that marketers can mine it.

For now, the only benefit that we can see outright is the first one. And yesterday I had the opportunity to see the results of all of the hard work that has gone into this new technology. It probably wasn’t the first report I’d gotten, but it was the first one I paid attention to. It’s the new smarter update from PG&E that provides the new information about my power usage. (I haven’t explored the online version yet.)

So I took a minute to see what I could learn. And, aside from comparing my usage to other households, the big thing it offered up was to identify what times of the day my power usage was highest. This might let me learn, for instance, that I was doing the laundry when everyone else was, and I could shift that around to even things out. This could have monetary impact once/if they ever start demand-based pricing.

So I studied the chart and the summary with great anticipation. What was my peak usage period?

Drum roll please:

My peak usage is between 5AM and midnight.

Yup. I was so surprised. I actually use more power during the hours when I’m awake. I had no idea.

I may try to shift things around by doing most of my computer work at night while I’m asleep.

The hopeful news is that, if the marketers are just as clunky about studying my data details, then I have nothing to worry about.

Then there’s the possibility that this was never about me optimizing my power, but was always simply about getting data to the big data guys…

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