Is this the future of energy?
Planners envision installing a new kind of power meter in homes – a wall-based unit that can monitor how much electricity is being used by various appliances and turn them off when demand for energy is higher, and thus costlier to consume. The project also would upgrade the utility’s computer systems so it can integrate more renewable energy. …
“There’s a lot of opportunities for us to improve our knowledge of what’s using power, and making it easier for us to shut off the power when we’re not around,” said Bob Gilligan, a GE vice president. “Most consumers aren’t really aware of how much energy they’re using at any time of day.”
A consumer unit that monitors energy in the house, giving the homeowner more information and control, would be a worthwhile product, but this sounds like more of a top-down initiative with some disconcerting possibilities for the future:
The smart grid would help integrate additional clean energy into the grid through computers that could quickly manage Maui’s power needs, adding and subtracting alternative power sources when desired.
“It will give the utility another knob to turn when wind suddenly calms on an afternoon, or when people are coming home and turning on their air conditioning,” said Devon Manz, an engineer at GE’s Global Research Center.
Maybe there are two distinct components to this “smart grid” — the appliance-monitoring device and the new knob back at the power company’s office — but even if that’s the case, it’s a short step to computers’ rationing energy through appliance-specific restrictions.