Micro-Curtailment

Michael Giberson

What is micro-curtailment? “Companies and families that don’t do this will have the ‘Fool’ stamped on their figurative foreheads,” writes Chris Davis at PowrTalk. You don’t want that to happen, do you?  So read Davis’s post.


6 thoughts on “Micro-Curtailment

  1. This is the part I really like:

    “The opportunity to tailor energy use to the room, to the minute, to the device represents the opening of a staggering volume of nooks and crannies to curtail. Smart Grid micro-curtailing will be the iPod of electrical power production. iUtilities. The fact that individuals will be able to control electricity at this level will induce them to play.”

    But imagine the potential for competing retail service providers to provide such products and services — I think they are much more likely to do so than incumbent, regulated utilities.

  2. The keys to the Smart Grid opportunity are realtime rates, consumer information and consumer control.

    The consumer must see the potential savings as having greater value to them than the lost convenience resulting from deferred consumption plus the cost of implementing the information and control functions.

    Lynne’s experiences would suggest that short term demonstration programs with minimal cost reductions have little potential to influence consumer investment in compliant equipment. Other experiences suggest that control of consumption by utilities or government is not broadly acceptable, especially if consumer savings are minimal.

  3. How much would I have to spend to enable room-by-room temperature control in my house? I don’t think that I would deal with this hassle anyway. The real feature of the smart-grid isn’t allowing you to start your dishwasher over the internet (why would I care about that either?!) but enabling someone else to do the micro-curtailing for you. “Honey, is it hot in here or is it just me? (checks thermostat) Oh, they just raised our thermostat a few degrees to micro-curtail our usage”. Yes, curtailment is the same as rationing.

  4. James, in talking to one of the folks involved in the curtailment program at the university with the AC problem, it appears that it is the university that dials back thermostats when curtailment is in effect, and they chose to override curtailment that day for the building with the AC problem (so people would be assured that the AC had been fixed).

    I envision expanded curtailing efforts along the same lines: changes are made on a situation-by-situation basis based on the mutual agreement of the utility and consumer, with the consumer (or the consumer’s agent or software or whatever)implementing the change.

    If done broadly enough, consumers could override their standard setup; the utility would make up the difference from the many other curtailing consumers out there. Give a penny, take a penny.

    No doubt this is rationing, but maybe it’s more accurately described as self-initiated rationing that is driven by self-interest.

  5. What smart grid delivers is the ability to charge you for the actual cost of your usage on an hour-by-hour basis. You will be allowed to run the AC at 4 PM in July to maintain a sweltering 72 degrees while running your dishwasher, but you will be paying up to $1.00 per kwh to do it. Meanwhile, overnight prices might be nearly zero, or even negative. They will be paying you to use power, then, but only night-owls and those few with plug-in hybrids will benefit. Also benefitting – those who allow the electric company to turn off the AC for a few minutes an hour on a rotating basis. This will let the temp go up a degree or so, but will save participants quite a bit. You may call this “rationing”, the rest of us call it supply and demand.

    Prediction: People will hate this. No one other than a few wonks and power geeks are going to want to monitor their usage on an hour-by-hour basis, and they will be downright paranoid about residential demand management. People want simple. You will start seeing the news stories about how some poor person who works two shifts for minimum wage forgot to turn his lights off or ‘accidentally’ left his AC on at 70 all day for a month, and ended up paying a $3000 bill. He will claim that all he was told was that he was signing up for a lower-priced plan, he didn’t understand all that fine print about power prices changing every 15 minutes, and he thought it was a variable-rate plan like the one he used to have back before deregulation where he paid slightly higher fixed rates in the summer than in winter. There will then be legislation to ‘protect’ residential customers from ‘predatory’ pricing. This could be price ceilings, it could be outright bans on using it for residential customers.

  6. I agree: people want simple. They want “fix it and forget it.” So long as the retail power supplier market is competitive, the market should reward firms that offer these simple deals.

    But simple to the consumer needn’t be simple “under the hood.” The retail power supplier could bundle all sorts of energy management systems with a rate plan, giving the consumer a relatively simple online interface to control consumer options.

    I suspect if ‘some poor person’ ends up with a $3000 bill, it will be addressed the same way that family cell phone bills are when a teenager first runs up a $3000 bill by live streaming video on a non-data billing plan. The parents call the phone company saying “?!?!?!?!?!!?” and make some adjustment in the billing plan, and the phone company knocks off most or all of the excess charge.

    But, in a competitive market, I suspect the rate plans will have fewer “gotchas” built in in the first place, because the companies won’t want the bad publicity.

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