I came across an interesting article in Government Technology magazine about a smart grid project in Tallahassee, Florida. Tallahassee's public utility will be soon linking electric, natural gas and water services utilizing some 220,000 smart meters that have been installed in the area over the past few years. According to the article, this may be the first effort to link all three types of services into a smart grid system in the US.
The article says that utility customers will be able, among other things, to "... control thermostats remotely, choose their ideal electricity price rates and compare energy use data. They can sign up for a monetary cap for their accounts or receive a text or e-mail alert when their usage level approaches a preset limit."
The idea is to give customers a real-time view of their specific and total utility usage which will allow them to make choices about when it is the most cost effective to use, say, their electricity to do laundry or turn on the air conditioning.
The project, which began in 2005, will be finally rolled out this later this autumn.
Another article on Tallahasee.com says that the total project price was $40 million, and that Tallahassee's utility company paid for the project in part by taking out a 15-year loan to pay for the meters and the software systems required (it received an $8.9 million matching grant from the US as well). Tallahassee says it estimates an overall cost savings for itself of $1.5 million over 15 years.
However, enrollment into the smart grid system isn't mandatory for non-city government utility customers (Tallahassee's public utility hopes that at least 25,000 of its 100,000 or so customers enroll), so what individuals might save is a bit speculative. But if the city of Tallahassee, which is probably a pretty big utility user itself, saves only $1.5 million over 15 years, it is hard to imagine that residential or even business customers will be saving that much.
I'll let you know more - especially customer reaction - as the system goes live later this year.
Robert N. Charette is a Contributing Editor to IEEE Spectrum and an acknowledged international authority on information technology and systems risk management. A self-described “risk ecologist,” he is interested in the intersections of business, political, technological, and societal risks. Charette is an award-winning author of multiple books and numerous articles on the subjects of risk management, project and program management, innovation, and entrepreneurship. A Life Senior Member of the IEEE, Charette was a recipient of the IEEE Computer Society’s Golden Core Award in 2008.