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Re: [RFI] Utility Automation

To: <eedwards@tconl.com>, <aa6yq@ambersoft.com>, <rfi@contesting.com>
Subject: Re: [RFI] Utility Automation
From: "Dennis Berry" <dennisberry@worldnet.att.net>
Date: Sun, 12 Sep 2004 12:45:46 -0400
List-post: <mailto:rfi@contesting.com>
Just my 2¢ worth on all this.  And please don't tag me as a 'conspiracy
theorists', I'm not one of those.  But here is where I can see all of this

Power blackouts:  Nasty problem that started in Ohio last year you may
recall.  I think we'll see mandates by the government for our power grid to
be maintained and monitored better, thus the need for better home and
business monitoring of power usage.  Since many of our power companies are
becoming 'conglomerates', buying out or merging with other power companies,
it will be eventually easier to standardize on devices, protocols, etc.

BPL:  I can't believe the 75% of homes have a connection and the other
numbers quoted.  We have too many people in a marginal income level in the
US to make that believable.  Maybe the numbers are tagged with an qualifier
of 'homes in a median income range', or 'x% of homes with Internet have
Broadband capability,  something to that effect.  Doesn't sound like a
realistic number.  But regardless, I think most of us will agree that BPL
will occur, but it will have to migrate to wireless.  And, in my crystal
ball, this will eventually be tied in to the Power Grid monitoring.  Why
not, a wireless network monitoring the power grid.  Makes sense to me.

Follow the money:  And lastly, in my humble opinion, all of the discussions
on customers paying for it will not be that much of an issue.  I predict
what will happen is that under Homeland Security, or some other agency set
up for the power grid improvement, we will see money flowing to the power
companies for the implementation of the home/business power monitoring, and
some form of BPL.  Our tax dollars will still be paying for this of course,
sort of like the 'customer' paying for this, but it will be taken out of the
'boardroom' discussions.  The problem here will be there are not committees
established as in the Electronics world, no standards, etc, and this will be
a mess until someone figures out there needs to be a standards committee
established to define requirements.

Summary:  BPL will happen, but wireless.  The 'customer' will pay for BPL
usage one way or another, but initially with support from the government.
We all will have power monitoring equipment installed in our homes, and key
appliances (AC, etc) will be able to be shut down during peak periods or to
avoid other grid problems.

I'm no expert in this field, just one man's opinion.  But I think much of
the funding will come from the government to support the initial IR&D on
this equipment.  We'll see how it plays out.

Thanks for the bandwidth.

    Dennis Berry

----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Ed -K0iL" <eedwards@tconl.com>
To: <aa6yq@ambersoft.com>; <rfi@contesting.com>
Sent: Sunday, September 12, 2004 12:19
Subject: RE: [RFI] Utility Automation

> Dave,
> Why are you focused on the home PC???  You need to think outside the PC
> box.
> None of the applications I mentioned would need to use the home owners'
> PCs.  They don't even require the home owner to have a PC.  That's why BPL
> would get a utility into EVERY home, not just the 50-75% that have
> broadband connections if it is that high.  (It's not in my
> neighborhood--but then hams with antennas usually have to live below their
> means to find a place).
> For Distribution Automation, you're correct; as I said-- you don't even
> have to have a connection into anyone's home to do this.  That makes BPL a
> good fit for this application since the only other option is wireless
> might cost more by adding a radio to the physical link.  Although if more
> repeaters are required, wireless might come out ahead!
> For Outage Detection, I would assume smart power meters would replace the
> old ones and only after enough of these are in place would this become a
> useful tool to utilities.  They already have these in some places and use
> wireless connection--but again that costs mor due to the radio.  No home
> is needed.  And with BPL this can be done without any internet connection.

> For Energy Mgmt you wrote:
> >>>From what I've learned in discussions here and in background reading,
> the biggest bang for the buck in energy management seems to be reducing
> peak requirements by spreading the load over time. This requires no
> modifications to household heating/cooling systems or appliances -- it
> simply requires the ability to track and report energy usage as a
> function of time-of-day, and an electricity pricing structure that
> incentivizes consumers to shift their non-critical usage from daytime to
> nighttime.
> Dave, How would you suggest "spreading load over time" and getting
> customers to "shift from daytime to night time usage"?  How will they do
> that when they're not home?  Either at work or out of town.  How do you
> wealthy people to do this when they'd rather just pay a higher price to
> keep their homes cooled or heated and their water heated at all times?
> Yes, BPL is not a critical requirement for this, I agree.  But if you've
> installed it for the other reasons, why not use your own network to do all
> of this and have some form of control over it?  Utilities are notorious
> wanting to control their own destiny when it comes to infrastructure.
> own their own comm networks (radio, microwave & fiber), IT networks, and
> anything else that a "Critical Infrastructure" company needs to operate
> completely whenever the chips are down and disaster strikes.  They rival
> E911 networks in many cases and exceed them in others since they have more
> revenue & capital to throw at these issues and 911 operations run by
> government.  For almost 20 years the best 2-way radio system in Nebraska
> was owned by my utility.  They were on the leading edge when trunking came
> out in the early 1980s.
> These are just some of the things that make utilities look at BPL which
> aren't even related to making revenue off of internet services--that's
> icing on the cake as I've said before.  Whether or not they are valid or
> there are other or better ways to do it; they're going to look at it and
> try it to see if it's worth the hassle.  So if it is a great big hassle,
> maybe it won't look so appealing at some point.  I'll keep pushing the
> wireless solutions from my end since that's what I do.  You guys keep up
> the pressure from your end.
> 73, de ed -K0iL
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Dave Bernstein
> Sent: Saturday, 11 September, 2004 9:25 PM
> To: eedwards@tconl.com; rfi@contesting.com
> Cc: dave.bernstein@comcast.net
> Subject: RE: [RFI] Utility Automation
> >>>AA6YQ comments below
> -----Original Message-----
> From: rfi-bounces@contesting.com [mailto:rfi-bounces@contesting.com] On
> Behalf Of Ed -K0iL
> Dave,
> Just playing devil's advocate here.
> >>>QSL
> 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.
> >>>For those who are, like me, unfamiliar with the acronym SCADA, its an
> abbreviation for "supervisory control and data acquisition", and refers
> to an industrial measurement and control system consisting of a central
> host or master, one or more field data gathering and control units or
> remotes, and a collection of standard and/or custom software used to
> monitor and control remotely located field data elements. According to
> http://members.iinet.net.au/~ianw/primer.html, contemporary SCADA
> systems exhibit predominantly open-loop control characteristics and
> utilize predominantly long distance communications, although some
> elements of closed-loop control and/or short distance communications may
> also be present.
> >>>Broadband connectivity in the US is not a small percentage. According
> to http://www.websiteoptimization.com/bw/0403/, 45% of all US households
> have a broadband connection to the internet, and another 30% have a
> lower-speed (e.g. dialup) connection. My assumption is that most if not
> all broadband connections are low-latency ("always-connected"), which
> for power management applications is likely more important than high
> bandwidth.
> 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.
> >>>What exactly is being automated in this scheme? It sounds like
> optimization of the power distribution network, which unaffected by
> whether homes do or don't have BPL deployed.
> 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.
> >>>Unless someone's PC happens to be running on an uninterruptable power
> supply, it will be incapable of informing the power company via BPL (or
> any other communications medium) that the power has failed. You can't
> presume the absence of a periodic "hearbeat" message from a home's
> connected PC means that home has lost power; the PC may be powered down,
> or its operating system may have crashed. One alternative is to deploy a
> self-contained battery-powered monitoring device. If BPL or some other
> means of internet connectivity is employed, then this device must be
> capable of running internet protocols, meaning it contains a
> microprocessor, non-volatile memory, and software. You say this is only
> useful if nearly every home has this monitoring capability; if so, this
> sounds rather expensive. How would BPL make this easier or cheaper?
> 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.
> >>>According to the above URL, 75% of US homes have an internet
> connection. I wonder what percentage of US homes have air conditioners
> or water heaters that can be remotely activiated and deactivated via a
> PC. Replacing thermostats with HomePlug-equipped units is typically not
> plug-and-play because many (most?) are not directly connected to a mains
> phase. Water heaters, clothers washers/dryers, refrigerators, and other
> household appliances will be equally challenging, though an aggressive
> industry standardization effort with consumer incentives for replacement
> could reduce this over a ~5 year time horizon.
>  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.
> >>>Most ISPs provide flat rate data service. Assuming the above problems
> were somehow overcome, the incremental bandwidth generated by realtime
> energy management would be "in the noise". I have yet to see an ISP
> contract that would preclude realtime control or enable the ISP to
> charge higher rates for this application. A single webcam generates
> orders of magnitude more network traffic than would the control
> applications we've been discussing here.
> 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.
> >>>Utilities can obtain the same flat rate services that other
> businesses enjoy. The economic return on deploying one's own network
> solely for the purpose of realtime control would be disastrous. Energy
> management imposes no quality-of-service requirement that cannot be
> handled by existing networks; the communication aspect of realtime
> control as you describe it could easily and economically be accomodated
> by existing broadband connections, which are already available in nearly
> half of all US households. Unless there is unique financial symbiosis
> between energy management and BPL, one can't make the other more
> economically attractive -- to investors or to consumers.
> 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.
> >>>From what I've learned in discussions here and in background reading,
> the biggest bang for the buck in energy management seems to be reducing
> peak requirements by spreading the load over time. This requires no
> modifications to household heating/cooling systems or appliances -- it
> simply requires the ability to track and report energy usage as a
> function of time-of-day, and an electricity pricing structure that
> incentivizes consumers to shift their non-critical usage from daytime to
> nighttime. As I've said before, this doesn't even require internet
> connectivity; a microprocessor-based power meter with a telephone
> connection would be sufficient. Yes, more could be done by exploiting
> always-connected networks to control in-home equipment, but the cost of
> modifying existing infrastructure would be very large. In any event,
> always-connected networks are already available; they are not on the
> critical path. If power companies are seriously interested in this
> approach, why have they not been conducting pilots using existing
> networks?
>     73,
>        Dave, AA6YQ
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