On May 23, the Demand Response and Smart Grid Coalition (DSRG), a “smart grid” trade association coalition, announced that the U.S. Senate had introduced the Electric Consumer Right to Know Act, S 1029.
The Demand Response and Smart Grid Coalition works to educate and inform the public, policy makers, utilities and the media on how modernize the nation’s electricity infrastructure to insure energy security, reduce electricity use, and save customers money.
By amending the 1978 Public Utility Regulatory Act, the bill, also called “e-Know”, aims to provide a way for electricity consumers to more easily find out about their energy usage and how much it saves (or costs) them.
In support of the proposed legislation, DSRG quoted a 2006 study (oft used and seldom cited, by Sarah Darby of the Environmental Change Institute) which shows that direct and indirect energy information feedbacks produce savings in the range of 5-15 percent.
A 2010 report by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy described similar results, with homeowners “taming the tiger” of energy use by 4 to 12 percent via the use of informational feedback programs, in addition to smart metering.
In other words, says DSRG, consumers who track their energy consumption in real time save $60 to $180 per year – an argument used by the Sierra Club to oppose a Maine group attempting to block installation of smart meters (LD 620), and also in 2009 when Google and the California Public Utilities Commission went to work on the state’s Smart Grid System.
The legislation is sponsored by Scott Brown (R-MA) and senior Senator Mark Udall (D-CO), who acquired his seniority when Ken Salazar was appointed Secretary of the Interior. Udall has long been a proponent of renewable electricity standards, and in 2010 proposed a 20-percent by 2020 RPS.
The e-Know legislation would empower consumers to obtain electricity-use information from electric utilities, including those agencies working on behalf of utilities offering home energy management systems, and would insure that the information gleaned could be technologically neutral. That is, consumers would get to choose how they get that information and how they use it.
Chairman of the DRSG Board Tim Enwall compared it to knowing the price of a gallon of milk before one gets to the checkout stand. For consumers, it may be the difference between turning the thermostat down for an added degree of summer comfort or choosing lighter clothing. For the nation as a whole, it may be the beginning of serious energy conservation that allows utilities and public service regulators to step back from uncertain, foreign energy supplies and dangerous or polluting electricity generation technologies.
It is also hoped that S-1209 will facilitate the introduction of smart grids to modernize the nation’s electricity system, including facilitating demand response programs which are aimed at minimizing the effects of an aging North American power grid – effects which are particularly troubling when trying to integrate renewable technologies or keep pace with new developments in the digital information and telecommunications network, as a 2003 study by the U.S. Department of Energy called “Grid 2030” notes.
In effect, experts like Greg Thomas of Performance Systems Development (and chairman of Efficiency First) suggest, the bill will make energy use data easily available to homeowners and to any third party entities they designate when subscribing to a smart metered system. This will allow contractors and energy efficiency firms to provide more accurate estimates of potential energy savings with each and every upgrade and innovation. Efficiency First is a nonprofit representing the Home performance market.
For example, if the legislation is implemented, home energy contractors can avail themselves of the most up-to-date energy usage information available and plug it into software that accurately and precisely predicts exact savings from any retrofit.
The bill has been sent for review to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.
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