Smart Homes, Smart Grid, and Not-so-Smart Consumer Electronics Association

Update on the CEC TV Energy Efficiency Standards

There was plenty of “whine” on November 4, or to be exact, at 4:55PM on November 3, when the CEA sent a 91 page document 5 minutes ahead of the 5:00PM deadline for comments on the California Energy Commission’s (CEC) proposed TV energy efficiency standards. In order to review this and other comments that arrived at this 11th hour, the CEC has postponed its hearing until November 18th.

The CEA comments oppose the proposed standards, citing that energy efficiency standards would increase the price of TVs. According to this industry association, the average digital TV uses the same electricity as two light bulbs – incandescent light bulbs. The average 42 inch LCD TV consumes 203 watts, and the average 42 inch plasma TV guzzles 271 watts. The average California home has three TVs. It appears that the CEA is strongly advocating for not only increased operating costs for consumers, but also construction of more expensive power plants and increased electricity rates to pay for increased power generation.

It’s a shame that the CEA can’t take the bold step of working cooperatively with the CEC to reduce consumers’ operating costs of TVs and reduce carbon footprints as well.

Smart Homes and HEMS in a Smart Grid

I attended a presentation by Vint Cerf, often called the “father of the Internet” last week, and part of his presentation covered sensors and actuators in homes, monitoring environmental conditions and sending alerts based on defined triggers. His example was his wine cellar. If the temperature goes above a threshold, sensors note the condition and send an alert to his mobile phone. An actuator could trigger a change in the air conditioning temperature to eliminate that threshold and alert.

This is the type of technology I want to see enabled on the one device I almost always forget to adjust before a trip – my hot water heater. Wouldn’t it be great if I could remotely set it to vacation mode and save energy and money – money that I could use for a future vacation? Wouldn’t it be even more wonderful if I had a powerful but easy-to-use Home Energy Management System (HEMS) that maintained a series of defined “Vacation mode” settings for my entire home? Instead of setting individual lamps on timers, having the ability to instruct my home to turn selected lights in selected rooms on and off on automated schedules would make my HEMS a handy preventive security system.

One way to achieve this is to make devices internet-enabled and addressable – maybe not all of them, but many of them. For utilities, one of the promises of the Smart Grid is the opportunity to expand and enrich their Demand Response (DR) programs. Through these DR programs, utilities can work with consumers to automatically power down pool pumps or refrigerator ice makers, remotely adjust HVAC temperatures up or down, and find other mutually agreeable actions that can pare down electricity demand at peak times. Some consumers are suspicious of any utility reach into their homes, so it will be very important for utilities to structure their DR programs so that consumers can override these automatic and/or remote controls – but at the price of higher peak electricity rates as a result of that ability to override.

There is another very important point about this future vision of a Smart Home in a Smart Grid – and it covers Internet security. Mr. Cerf pointed out that internet security is in definite need of research and development, and he’s right. If we are going to make a home truly Internet-enabled, as homeowners we’ll expect that our homes can’t be hacked with the unfortunate regularity that befalls our computers. HEMS solution providers need to consider appropriate security designs and processes into their software and hardware that consider worst-case scenarios. As we all know, one negative incident in the USA, one highly publicized negative incident, could set back the HEMS industry for years.

Check out the Global Smart Energy Bilateral Trade and Investment Opportunities event on November 13 in Monterey. The agenda is filled with Smart Grid sessions that cover national and global perspectives.

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