Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Whose Meter Is It: Dopey Ontario and Smart Meters

Another data management debacle in Ontario.
Smart technology refers to components that can communicate, the communication protocols and networks, the servers, the software, the security protocols, the network architecture controlling access.  Our governments seem to lack the technical expertise in information technology and the bureaucratic backbone to face down poor direction. 

I've just read through Access to Consumer Data: A Vignette from the Ontario Smart Grid Forum
Beyond the needs of TOU billing by utilities however, lie a wider range of products and services – many of which may be enabled by real‐time or near real‐time metering data. Access to real‐time smart metering data has been a topic of extensive examination and discussion by the Ontario Smart Grid Forum, particularly in the context of enabling the concept of the “smart home”.  Access to real‐time data is the focus of this informational ‘vignette’.
The Smart Grid forum considers smart homes desirable, spends some time noting competition for smart home services is desirable, and quotes a previous report noting:
"Unlicensed third‐party service providers, for example, want access to customer smart meter data so they can design and commercialize new energy products and services for residential, business and industrial consumers.”

Well, one main goal of old school local distribution companies was security, and old school security quite often meant proprietary and unique protocols - which would be the opposite of open access and open architecture.
Ontario’s Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) systems pre‐date many emerging interoperability standards which might assist in the controlled and secure exchange of real‐time smart metering data between third parties and LDCs.   As a result, there is presently no single common approach for third parties wishing to offer products and services that require real‐time smart metering data. This will be a reality in the province for many years to come. In order to overcome this interim barrier, the Ontario Smart Grid Forum recommended in its May, 2011 report, the establishment of a common AMI test bed facility for the province where third parties can develop and test interfaces with the various different propriety AMI standards currently in use in the province.
But ... all the meters are new.
In 2004 data issues were well known to data professionals.
As Canada's long-gun registry (a $2 billion database program), and the eHealth largess in Ontario should have indicated back in the day, our governments aren't strong at data management.

Ontario's desire to be smart grid pioneers through the rapid roll-out of smart meters was done with little inital data design discipline.  This "vignette" demonstrates the premature roll-out has wiped out any early adaptor advantage already.
Green Button Initiative:  A fast‐emerging solution being developed under the auspices of the United States National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Smart Grid Interoperability Panel (SGIP) offers a non‐proprietary alternative to data access.  Its potential adoption in Ontario could be seen as an alternative approach to the AMI Test Bed facility.
Could be.
Hell ya... could be.

Proprietary leanings already killed the Google PowerMeter and Microsoft Hohm projects, initiated back when, for some reason, the IT giants assumed individuals would have access to "their" metering data, perhaps real-time pricing signal and the ability to control their electricity consuming devices across a network, presumably, the one we call the internet.

The 'vignette' shows item 1 of the Smart Grid Forum's progress check as
1. "...[LDCs] should retain the ultimate responsibility for confidentiality of data while it’s residing in their meters."  
The key word here is "their". Consumers could control their own electricity use without any utility involvement beyond a connection to receive metering data, real-time ~ and the utility could push pricing signals securely in real-time separately from the metering.  The Progress Check's second point notes a theoretical desireability of customers having "ultimate control over data release," but that skirts the real-time issue for controllinging consumption.

This small issue, of ownership of the data being collected at the meter, comes more into focus when la 'vignette' notes: 
3. The Energy Services Interface (ESI) between the utility’s systems and those within a customers’ premise needs a clear demarcation point for liability over the data ...
A push interface would resolve liability quite quickly - allowing the customer to register a device they own that could recieve pushed data from the utilities meter:  a one-way push interface to a single point on the consumer side, which the consumer owns and is responsible for securing.

I suspect the security issues are complicated by a desire for push and pull - meaning the ability to control consumption devices in the residence, and the ability to collect a new revenue stream.

I received an offer to join a PeakSaver Plus program last week, from my distribution company.  In order to take advantage of the expensive program you need to have a single family dwelling with a central air conditioner in working order.  That program is funded by money the Ontario Power Authority takes from ratepayers through the global adjustment mechanism.
Ratepayers including food bank users, the former horse owners who have searched for somebody to give their horses as feed prices are way up and revenue likelihoods are way down, and a broad collection of others struggling without a well-functioning central air-conditioning system in a single family home.

Apparently, the smart grid is to enable elitists to implement regressive policies.

Unfortunately for elitists, populists have contrary opinions of what the devises might be good for.

Now that we know the utility can communicate with central air, lets charge triple rates for electricity consumption by central air devices.
It's a huge issue in Ontario, which was for most of it's years a winter peaking jurisdiction.  The growth in summer demand is an issue, and, fortunately, we now have a list of homes with central air which we can charge inflated electricity rates to recover the capacity costs for units needed above the winter peak demand needs.
There are other consumption pigs we could put heavier prices on too - pool pumps, for instance.

It's likely wiser to keep electricity providers as electricty providers and avoid chosing rich people to reward with bling thermostats on the basis that because they use the most they offer the greatest opportunity for reducing demand.

Your utility should be your electricity supplier.

You should have access to the data your utility collects from the meter they charge you for.
Others should not.

The latest communication from the Ontario Smart Grid Forum hints that Ontario's best course is now to adopt the standards being developed, and implemented, in the United States.  If they want to do something intelligent, they'll adopt that course and go the added step of preventing utilities from collecting revenues from any type of meddling with controlling consumption on the other side of the meter.


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