Facebook Wants to Be The New Electricity Utility

headsupFacebook believes every decade an invention similar to the invention of the electricity utility comes along.

They believe they are the new electricity utility of this decade. Considering Facebook has been around going on 10 years now many say it has become un-cool.

In reality Facebook might be un-cool to some but it is an essential service to many and some would argue it has created a class of cyborg citizens.

Facebook likes the idea of being un-cool and prefers the concept that their service is now essential to living.

Many people don’t really function without being connected up via Facebook through their smartphone.

The idea of detaching from the social media network is as foreign as if they were to detach from the electric utility.

In 10 more years Facebook could be even that much more connected to each and every one of us through a set of glasses that offers us a heads up view of what is happening with everyone.

If you had peripheral feeds at all times of what your friends and family and network is doing you would be basically a walking cyborg of human/computer network interactivity.

It’s a bit scary to think about but I myself have discovered that at times I seem a little too much a part of that little iPhone I carry around in my pocket.

The phone seems to follow me around wherever I go and I am never more than a few minutes out of touch with what might be going on in my network.

The next logical step seems to be a service as essential to us as the electricity grid that provides us energy on demand.

Social activity on demand seems like a close parallel to this electricity business and I really don’t think I’m too far out in StarTrek land to believe this.

In summary next time you see a car veer into your lane during daylight ask yourself if they are more likely drunk or browsing their phone.

It is only a matter of a few years before everyone has that device that’s in their hand or pocket in a heads up position virtually in front of their faces at all times as they engage in daily life.

The days of permanent connection to the social grid are close at hand people as scary and disturbing as that may seem.

 

Read more about this topic here: http://techcrunch.com/2013/09/18/facebook-doesnt-want-to-be-cool/

 

America is Using Less Electricity Even With All the Gadgets

opowerWe have a lot of gadgets and gizmos in America these days and I have heard of some parents even installing TV’s in all their kids rooms.

You would think of all the TV babysitters, iPads, iPad mini’s, Kindles, etc that somewhere along the way we would be consuming a ridiculously large amount of electricity.

What the energy information administration has discovered is that we will only see a 0.6% a year rise for industrial users and 0.7% rise for households.

These small demand increases will continue at about this same pace all the way until 2040 as far as government estimates can foresee.

Why is it that we are seeing demand slowly creeping up instead of the 8 % yearly consumption increase that we are used to?

According to the Wallstreet Journals findings, a lot of this has to do with the manufacturing sector really decreasing the amount of electricity and other energy that they use in the production of goods.

Some of the decrease is directly related with the recession as can be seen in years 2008, 2009, small increase in 2010 and down again in 2011.

It isn’t all about the recession though. We are using some spectacularly efficient appliances, light bulbs, and cars these days. We simply don’t have to use as much electricity to cool our house, warm the house, light the house, wash and dry clothes, etc.

The interesting downward trend in electricity consumption is causing less pollution but making it hard for electric companies to turn a decent profit. Since virtually all of our electricity is created on demand and not stored electric companies have a lot of capital tied up in electricity infrastructure.

Much of the electric utility infrastructure has been partially government controlled and regulated since it went into existence. The government basically called the shots on the infrastructure even though companies like TXU previously known as TU Electric and other such companies like Houston Power and Light built and owned the equipment.

If the regulators said they had to build it they built it and there was usually some type of reward, subsidy, or something to go along with it to make sure these companies kept pace with demand and the state had a reliable electric grid.

smartThe government in a way has come to the rescue for these electric utility companies as they are regulating and enforcing the upgrades necessary to move and replace old 50’s technology to today’s smart grid high-voltage transmission lines. In just the last couple years the US has spent over $35 billion on these superhighways for electricity.

So even though electric utilities may not be making much money any more from the consumer in generating electricity they are still darn well making a decent bit from the government subsidies that they get paid in building out the new US smart grid.

The government regulators have set up the upgrade network for utility companies so that they can offer these companies large returns far greater than what they get selling retail electricity. The utilities can then charge excessively for these upgrades to the electric utility customer. The government in a way is adding yet another tax to the consumer through the TDSP portion of an electric bill. Electric utilities are encouraged to further upgrade and build out the electric grid and deal less in competitive retail sells. They will do this so long as the government is there to pay them for building out a bigger more upgraded electric grid.

You may start to notice new fees like, government service fees, TDSP add-ons, distribution surcharges, smart grid upgrade service fee, etc. in the transmission and distribution section of your electric bill.

These additional fees and charges are creeping up on many peoples bills to a degree that is overtaking their actual electricity costs. You may soon find yourself paying more for that electric pole, transformer, wire, and smart meter than you are for the electric service.

Companies like Energy Future Holdings have both a regulated side (Oncor Electric Delivery) and deregulated side (TXU Energy). I would assume as have many electric companies already that Energy Future Holdings may start putting most of their new investment energy in upgrading their electric grid equipment, poles, wires, etc. as they are guaranteed an above average return by the federal government.

Unfortunately the average electricity consumer is not guaranteed an average electric bill as can be seen by the people living in New York City who pay more for their transmission and distribution charges than they do for the cost of electricity.

Being in the federally regulated electric utility business seems to be good business as these regulated utility companies will make 11.7% to 12.9% return as set by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. This return is guaranteed and it isn’t based on load growth that has small room for error.

In summary I think the drop in demand for electricity is related to more efficient appliances, lights, etc. but I also believe it is related to a long lasting recession that will likely continue for a good 10 years.

What I think is going on in the electric utility industry is hand writing on the wall. I believe that the investment in the electric grid at this pace and using this many dollars has to do with the government attempting to prop up the economy with government created projects.

Don’t get me wrong, updating the electric grid is very good and needed but I just see the all at once strategy as a sign of something else. I truly believe that the government knows that the economy will be in the dumps for many years out. They are using this time to create the illusion that we are moving out of the recession and promising it will stimulate the economy when in reality we have a long hard road ahead of us. We have the new gadgets and efficient appliances but the jobs and consumer consumption are shrinking and they will continue to do so for many years.

Is the Texas Government Poisoning Residents With Smart Meter Radiation?

There is a petition that has been submitted by Devvy Kidd and John Kidd that takes on Texas smart meters because of the health hazards of RF and EMF radiation that come from these devices.

Many people with elderly heart conditions, aging body tissue, and Texas smart meter radiation dangers differences in body fluids compared to younger more healthy individuals feel that they are being sacrificed for the sake of technology. Even people not so frail feel scared by the potential high levels of RF radiation that is being emitted from Texas Smart Meters. Most states did little research on these radiation dangers and what research that was done was later found to be originally created by the industry that would profit from these new meters. You would think a little more thought  would have gone into it before mandating almost all Texans get one installed. Geniuses made microwaves safe before they went on store shelves and even then people had a choice to buy it or not.

For those that have been worried by the health hazards associated with Texas smart meters it has really become a mini-Fukushima for those concerned about radiation dangers. The idea that radiation from radio frequency and electromagnetic field energy is sending in daily waves of small X-Ray level radiation bodily exposure is a very frightening prospect. You can’t compare RF radiation to X-ray radiation as they are two totally different things. RF radiation is non-ionizing radiation and does not come with the cancer risks associated with X-ray radiation. There may still be dangers especially at higher dosages but lets not get ahead of ourselves and make the comparison with X-ray radiation as it just isn’t the same thing.

For those looking at this petition from the outside it seems a little much ado about nothing. We know most of us these days have microwave ovens in our houses and yet the smart meter is very small and on the outside of a home. Both of these devices emit RF radiation but there are some differences. For instance, the microwave is regulated by the FDA to allow for only a very small amount of RF radiation to come out of the device for the entire life-cycle of the microwave oven. The FDA has no regulation or criteria for how much RF radiation can be emitted from a smart meter. When looking at my Texas smart meter I could not find any shield or device preventing the release of unwanted amounts of RF radiation into the home and surrounding area.

Comparing Safety Levels of Microwave Ovens and Texas Smart Meters

So lets compare the two to start off with to see how a microwave oven’s danger compares with a Texas smart meter’s possible dangers. A microwave uses non-ionizing radiation which does not have the cancer risks associated with it as do X-rays. This radiation is however still harmful to some low degree and so there are rules about how much radiation leakage can occur in a microwaves life-cycle. Only 5 milliwatts of microwave radiation per square centimeter at approximately 2 inches from the surface of the oven is allowed by the United States Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health. Doing a search on the FDA’s radioactive emitting product search database for “Smart Meters” it came back with nothing. It turns out that Smart Meters also produce the same type of non-ionizing radiation known as RF radiation. This radiation is much much safer than X-ray radiation but it is still potentially dangerous and so precautions are recommended and followed by many product manufacturers with the regulation of the FDA behind it.

The potential health impacts of smart meters. The California state legislatures asked for an independent review of the safety of smart meters to be conducted in order to have an unbiased report to look at that was an independent science based study. The California state legislatures were hearing from PG&E that there was nothing to worry about so they wanted to get confirmation on this from a clear scientific review that had no ties with PG&E or any company that would benefit by the sell of smart meter technology. California Council on Science and Technology did not go forward with an independent review but instead reproduced the same claims that the Electric Power Research Institute had made. The problem with this is that the same group PG&E used for their report (Richard Tell Associates) was in charge of producing the report for the Electric Power Research Institute as well. There was a table in the EPRI report used by the California council comparing the RF radiation doses from a smart meter, a cell phone, and a microwave oven. The issue with the table and report is that they were comparing apples and oranges.
Smart Meter RF Radiation
They looked at whole body exposure from a smart meter and compared it to the dose of an ear from a cell phone. Rather than comparing the whole body dose of a cell phone and comparing that with the whole body dose from a smart meter they did it much differently with resulted in a significant skewing of results. Richard Tell Associates assumed a 100% duty cycle for the smart meter and a 1% duty cycle for a smart phone because you only uses the cell phone for less than an hour during a day on average. They never corrected for the enormous comparative difference in usage of 45 minute total cell phone exposure next to the continuous use a smart meter would be on for. They did not look at cumulative exposure which would make sense because the smart meter is usually attached to your house near a major room and running 24 x 7. So in the study they assumed 99% of the time the cell phone was not producing radiation but 100% of the time the smart meter would be which is a good assumption and correct for the most part but cumulative exposure was completely left out of the study. They did adjust the smart meter number to 50% exposure as a reasonable adjustment but even still this doesn’t come close to solving the problems with the study. When you correct the two major blunders in the study, the whole body and the cumulative aspect of it rather than a cell phone being 100 times more exposure than a smart meter a smart meter shows to be 100 times more cumulative exposure than a cell phone.

Corrected Graph Using Daniel Hirsch’s findings in the EPRI Graph

Corrected Smart Meter Graph

These inaccuracies were exposed by Daniel Hirsch who teaches Nuclear Policy at the University of Santa Cruz. He spoke to the California legislature and asked for them to revise the numbers based on these new findings regarding whole body exposure and cumulative exposure.

What is the Smart Meter Risk to the Public?

At the moment no one really knows what the risks could be even with these corrected findings on radiation exposure from smart meters. The health risks from RF radiation are uncertain but consider that your microwave oven also uses non-ionizing radiation just as the smart meter does. The United States Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health regulates the RF radiation of a microwave and I believe they should do so for the smart  meter. A spray on coating and shield backing may be all the retrofits that are necessary to offer the same protection you currently receive against RF radiation exposure as you get from your microwave oven. The health dangers could be found to be harmless but it could just as easily be found to be extremely severe. The main issue is that currently knowing nothing about the long term health risks of smart meter RF radiation exposure the government is conducting a very large experiment on millions of the population. A big part of this experiment is completely involuntary as most Texans don’t remember ever being asked if they are okay with  the new smart meters being installed on their homes and paying that extra $5 a month for the luxury of continuous 24 x 7 RF radiation exposure.

Like many of us I choose to still use my cell phone although I use a hands free set and keep that thing as far from my head as I can. When I live in my Tyler Texas home I had no choice on if I would use a smart meter but yet I have one permanently attached on my outside kitchen wall.

Consider that tens of millions of people have smart meters on their homes with potentially 100 times greater cumulative full body exposure from RF radiation than they get from their smart phone. In several years we may find this has led to a sharp increase in cancers but it could also mean we find that it actually produced no cancers and is perfectly safe. Regardless I am still paranoid about smart phone cancer risks and this is only a 45 minute per day exposure risk.

What do I recommend? I would like to keep my smart meter but I would like a retrofit similar to what already comes on my microwave oven. I want to be able to in case or spray on something to my smart meter that keeps RF radiation exposure to 5 milliwatts of microwave radiation per square centimeter at approximately 2 inches from the surface of the smart meter. If a cheap $30 microwave can meet those requirements I  don’t see why we can’t easily make that happen for a smart meter. A word of warning about assuming the risks are not great when it comes to non-ionizing radiation: It took years to understand that with ionizing radiation that comes from disasters like Fukashima there is a latent long term danger from cumulative long term exposure that always results in terminal cancer. We do not yet understand what these latent long term cumulative dangers are for non-ionizing radiation that come from devices like the smart meter which is an always on device. There is always a low ball estimate of risks from governments in order to get the mass public to not worry and accept new policy. If you think the smart meter experiment is a big gamble in Texas consider that China will install over 300 million smart meters by the end of 2015. If there is a cancer risk with smart meters it looks like we will all go down with it at the rapid rate these things are being installed. These risk estimates always go up over time after the public has already accepted the magic device. Go ahead and do what you need to do to protect yourself from exposure by buying an after market product that can assist with this. The good news is that a retrofit is likely very inexpensive and easy to install to block out the radiation although it may require a little sweat.

How to Use The Google Smart Meter in Texas

Google PowerMeter DeviceGoogle PowerMeter is a free energy monitoring tool that helps you save energy and money. Using energy information provided by your Texas electric utility smart meters and energy monitoring devices, Google PowerMeter enables you to view your home’s energy consumption from anywhere online.

Benefits of Google PowerMeter

  • Find What Devices and Appliances Are Always on
  • Predict Your Energy Costs
  • Plug in Your Fixed Electric Rate per kWh to customize your data
  • View How Others Have Used Google Power Meter
  • Track Energy Usage Over Days, Weeks, and Months

You will be able to quickly see patterns of electric usage during certain times of day and pinpoint what devices are using most of your energy. You may have never even thought about what appliances in your home causes you to spend the most on your electricity but the data available from Google smart meter will allow you to plan and budget to plan how you use your energy and how to lower costs.

Even if you are not the type of person to budget nd plan the Google Smart meter application that is available online keeps track of all the data for you. The application even automatically creates the graphs and shows you the patterns for where you can save the most money.

This online application is perfect for me and considering Oncor electric utility which is agressively impleneting smart electric meters in their service area is my utility I will not have to wait long to use this app.

If you are in the Dallas Fort Worth area chances are you already have a smart electric meter installed by Oncor Electric Delivery. If so I encourage you to go to the link below and sign up with Googles application.

http://www.google.com/powermeter/about/about.html

One of the neatest things about the Google smart meter app is the dark green area of their chart. The dark green area shows you what applianxes in your house are always on. Many people do not realize it in Texas but many of the appliances we use suck energy out of the electric outlet even when you turn off the device.

The Google Power meter will help you pinpoint those devies and retrofit the outlet or device so that it no longer takes energy from your usage while not being used. If you do not want to spend money on retrofits you can atleast begin unplugging those devices from the wall as an alternative.

If nothing else this app is very cool and interesting to play around with and review even if decide not to implement in changes in your electricity usage consumption and behavior.

Oncor is not currently listed as a PowerMeter partner but you can easily purchase a cheap device to use with this application in correspondence with your smart meter. Below are a couple of devices that can be purchased that are compatible with the Google PowerMeter application.

http://www.currentcost.com/powermeter/

http://www.theenergydetective.com/store/

Texas Electric Smart Meters: What They Are & How They Help You Save on Your Energy Bill

In years gone by, all businesses and personal residences were required to have an electricity meter on their property. The electric company would send meter readers out to read them once a month, and that’s how they calculated your bill.

Now, this is no longer necessary thanks to Texas’s smart meters. Their function is the same – to measure your electricity use so that your electric company can know how much to bill you. But, they cut out the need for a meter reader.

All information is transported back to your electricity company electronically. And, the information is constantly updated – it records your energy usage every 15 minutes. This, in essence, shows your energy usage in real time.

Another neat feature of Texas smart meters is that it records and analyzes a history of your Texas electricity use. This saves you money because you can use this data to manage your energy consumption better.

Use Smart Meters to Get Off Prepaid Electric Service Plans

Customers who are on prepaid electric service plans can use the data provided by smart meters to choose a “smarter” energy plan. When you know how much energy you use, you can use this raw data to shop for a Texas electric company that offers more competitive rates.

Many pre-paid electric plan customers are surprised to learn that they’re being charged 14, 15 or 16 cents per kilowatt hour, when the going rate for consumers who aren’t on these plans is only 9 or 10 cents per kilowatt hour, for example.

Knowledge truly is power and Texas’s electric smart meters can arm you with all you need to lower your monthly energy bill.

Electricity Bid helps you find an electric rate and provider to save you money and keep life simple.

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