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RE: [RFI] Utility Automation

To: "'Dave Bernstein'" <dave.bernstein@comcast.net>,"rfi@contesting.com" <rfi@contesting.com>
Subject: RE: [RFI] Utility Automation
From: Ed -K0iL <eedwards@tconl.com>
Reply-to: "eedwards@tconl.com" <eedwards@tconl.com>
Date: Sat, 11 Sep 2004 19:41:04 -0500
List-post: <mailto:rfi@contesting.com>

Just playing devil's advocate here.

There are many different SCADA-type systems that could be developed and 
used by utilities but all have one common thing that's missing today: 
Network Infrastructure covering all customers.  Sure, some small percentage 
of customers today now have cable modems, DSL, and the like, but not ALL of 
them.  Not even most of them.  Most of them have no reliable or easily 
accessed data link into the home.

Here are just three of many possible schemes:

1.  DA or Distribution Automation does not require connections to any homes 
but it does to various control equipment (switches, cap banks, etc.).  This 
completely lacks any infrastructure today EVEN IF EVERY HOME HAD CABLE 
MODEMS OR DSL.  Some utilities have used wireless to do this in remote 
areas like northern MN.  But the coverage area is limited by wireless 
issues and infrastructure costs of wide area radio systems capable of 
handling wireless data.

2.  Outage Detection is only useful if a large percentage or nearly every 
home has a link to provide meaningful info to the utility.  If only 10%-30% 
have it, they won't be able to tell from the data if the outage is a lot of 
down feeds to homes or a major outage caused by one single device or feed. 
 So they will still need to revert to the old way of handling this outage. 
 But if they know it's every home that's out on a given circuit, they can 
now address that outage much faster and more efficiently than before.  A 
BPL Network with new meters everywhere (yes, expensive to do all at once!) 
could provide meaningful outage detection data.  This will take time to 
migrate towards.

3.  Energy Mgmt could be done on a limited basis whenever a customer wants 
it installed to get a lower electric rate.  This is mostly controlling 
overall load through cycling customers' A/C & water heaters OFF/ON 
depending on system load.  It could be made available today to the few who 
have a reliable network connection (DSL or cable), but the typical person 
who'd be interested in the savings (lower income households) probably do 
not have DSL or cable network connections so BPL would reach these folks. 
 Watch out what the network providers might start doing once this becomes 
widespread.  This is just speculation, but there might be additional ISP 
costs to allow such commerical access to your home if there are different 
rates for commercial than normal residential access.

With BPL, utilities will have "their own network" which they have control 
over.  No sudden additional charges by outside suppliers.  That's a lot 
more attractive in many ways.  If they could've really done this years ago, 
they would have.

For some utilities like public utilities, this may be the only reason they 
seriously take a look at BPL since they may not be able to get into the 
internet aspect due to regulatory restrictions.  Leasing bandwidth to an 
ISP might be an option and would be icing on the BPL cake.  To hams it 
doesn't justify polluting 40-50Mhz or more  of spectrum; but to 
non-hams--the other 99.7% of the population, that's another story.  It's 
going to get worse before it gets better, if it does.

73, de ed -K0iL
Omaha, NE

-----Original Message-----
From:   Dave Bernstein
I've seen no description of how real-time utility control might work, and 
can't comment on that aspect.

I don't at all discount time-of-day meter meter reading; my previous 
described it as a "win-win" for everyone. Were power companies focused on
this, they could introduced it years ago using techniques like those
employed by pay-per-view suppliers.

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