Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Lafayette Pulls Down $11,630,000 in Smart Grid Monies (Updated)

Congratulations to Lafayette and Lafayette Utilities System....

Their recovery act grant application returned $11,630,000 dollars to the city in order to install a smart electrical meter system in the city. This has been something that LUS director Huval has long sought and winning the grant means that it can go forward much sooner. The "Brief Project Description" put up by the grant-giving agency says:
Install more than 57,000 smart meters to reach the full service territory with two-way communications, enable consumers to reduce energy use with smart appliances and dynamic pricing, and automate the electric transmission and distribution systems to improve monitoring and reliability.
We've commented here before on the potential of smart meters using the internet to communicate; it is all about shaving the top off peak power usage. These meters allow users to save money by monitoring their own usage and shifting the use of electricty-hogging services to times when power is cheap. (Charge your new electric car between 1 and 4:30 in the morning and get a 20% discount just like the big industrial users do now.) And they'd allow the electrical provider to spend less money on peak capacity. (We won't have to build an expensive new plant if most of those new electric cars charge during off-peak hours.)

Now I'll be very interested in seeing just how that "two-way communications" will be accomplished. Fiber to the home works great...for those that have fiber. But to serve all the city's electrical customers it would likely prove cheaper to lay down a WiFi network — after all we've already got fiber running down every block. Just hang the WiFi off the polls and put a node on every meter.

That gives the city a pervasive cloud of wifi. Use a muscular 802.11N version and there'd be plenty left over to give LUS Fiber subscribers a very nice wireless addition to their already capable network.

Stay tuned. There'll surely be more to this story.

(Hat tip to Mike for the lead on this story.)

Update 10/31/09:
Both the Advertiser and the Advocate have now picked up this story. LUS apparently issued a press release and Huval has talked to reporters. The most interesting new tidbit is in the Advertiser's article:
Because the grant requires a match from LUS, it remains unclear whether the city will actually be able to receive the funds.

LUS Director Terry Huval said the application was submitted with plans of a rate increase for all LUS customers. But because some City-Parish Council members have opposed the increase, a final vote on it was delayed last month by Lafayette Consolidated Government officials, and it is unknown when that vote will take place.

Since the rate increase is in jeopardy, the smart grid project is temporarily off the table, but could make it back onto a project list if the increase eventually passes.

"Unless we're able to find funding for that or get the rate adjustment, we would not be able to meet the match requirements," Huval said.
Here's to hoping that our green council (who are all in their first term) has the good sense to realize that this is the sort of "expense" that more than pays for itself. A "rate increase" that allows customers to save money through their own decisions and helps keep the utility from having to pay for excess, seldom used capacity saves the people money in both the long and the short run. Especially when our federal tax dollars will pay for half of the cost. It's a one-time, limited-time offer, folks.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

John,

I'm a little concerned when the government wants to save me money by increasing rates. It would help to use some real numbers to explain this.

Right now, it looks like the rate increase would pay for a wifi network. How does this save me money? P.S. I don't have an electric car to charge at 4 A.M.

John said...

courageous anono,

I'm always astonished at the inconsistency of those that chant, when it is convenient. that govt. shouldn't help anyone-- people should be "responsible." But then, when govt. actually tries to put control in their hands they still fear to pick up the responsibility offered, and in fact refuse it and blame govt. anyway.

So I'll line it out simply: You can save money if you pay attention and don't waste a common resource at times when it is expensive. Or you can be a wastral and pay more.

Thus has it ever been.

The only thing changing, as far as I can see is that I am being enabled to NOT take up your slack if I want. Currently the wastrals are free-riding on the rest of us.

In the long run we'll ALL pay less if we ALL conserve. What this will enable is to give those among us who have to see a financial reason to be responsible a motive that they can understand.