I have been been a bit behind in my Risk Factor blogging the past few days because I have been without electricity, Internet service, and for awhile, land line or cell phone service due to the massive snow storm that hit the mid-Atlantic region of the US over the weekend. More snow is expected tonight and tomorrow along with gusty winds, so I may lose power for a couple of more days. So if the Risk Factor blog goes quiet again, you'll know why.
When I wasn't outside shoveling frozen precipitation, I had plenty of time to ruminate in my chilly study about whether smart grid/smart meter technology would have help get my home's electric power restored more quickly. In my case, power was "restored" several times at intervals of 10 to 12 hours only to be lost a minute or two later. The information I gleaned from the very overworked and extremely tired power company crews trying to restore power in the area was that there appeared to be at least two problems involved - one was an immediate, heavy load placed on the local grid as everyone's lights, furnaces, heaters, etc. kicked on all at once, and the other being that there appeared to be some sort of "short" in the system. Finally, last night power came back on and stayed on.
I understand that smart meters will help with the load issue after a power outage by being able to turn off smart appliances and what not as power is being restored, and that they will also inform a power company about who has no power (is this an active inform, or just a passive one because the smart meter isn't reporting status information to the power company?)
However, can smart meters also help diagnose an outage? Can they tell the power company where power lines are down, for instance, or in my case, exactly where a potential short exists, rather than just a general area?
Or are they just "semi-smart" meters?
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.