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RE: [RFI] Utility Automation

To: <eedwards@tconl.com>, <rfi@contesting.com>
Subject: RE: [RFI] Utility Automation
From: "Dave Bernstein" <aa6yq@ambersoft.com>
Reply-to: aa6yq@ambersoft.com
Date: Sun, 12 Sep 2004 16:07:54 -0400
List-post: <mailto:rfi@contesting.com>
+++AA6YQ comments below

-----Original Message-----
From: Ed -K0iL [mailto:eedwards@tconl.com] 
Sent: Sunday, September 12, 2004 12:19
To: 'aa6yq@ambersoft.com'; rfi@contesting.com
Cc: dave.bernstein@comcast.net
Subject: RE: [RFI] Utility Automation


Why are you focused on the home PC???  You need to think outside the PC 

+++I did consider several alternatives involving independent
microprocessor-based boxes, but they didn't create any synergy between
BPL and energy management.

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
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
means to find a place).

+++This statistics I quoted were that 40% of households are
broadband-connected, not 50-75%.

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
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
repeaters are required, wireless might come out ahead!

+++Oh, I see. The utility deploys BPL to consumers, and independently
uses the BPL network to provide real-time communications among elements
of its distribution infrastructure. Assuming that revenues from BPL
subscribers cover the cost of operating the BPL network, then the
utility would indeed get free low-latency connectivity for its own use
-- not to energy management equipment on consumer premises (like more
intelligent meters), but to substations and other distribution
components. This would indeed generate financial synergy as long as the
utility doesn't lose its shirt on the BPL side of the business
attempting to compete with cable, DSL, satellite, WiFi, and WiMax.
Remember the rule of thumb for successfully entering an
already-dominated market with an undifferentiated product: this requires
annual marketing investments comparable to the leaders' annual revenues.
The fact that a BPL network can be used as you suggest to make a power
utility more efficient would be hard to translate into a compelling
reason for subscribers to switch from cable or DSL to BPL.

+++Given the investments by Intel, Motorola, and a gaggle of companies
chasing RFID and mesh networking opportunities, the incremental cost to
wirelessly connect a system element is going through the floor. For
high-availability power distribution systems, I would think that the
need for redundancy would make wireless technologies especially

For Outage Detection, I would assume smart power meters would replace
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 a 
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

+++To use BPL for this purpose, you'd have to design the system to pass
data even when the power is out. Those BPL systems requiring repeaters
and/or using pole-mounted WiFI transceivers might have trouble with

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


Dave, How would you suggest "spreading load over time" and getting 
customers to "shift from daytime to night time usage"? 

+++By raising the rates for power consumed above a certain threshold
during the day and lowering the rates for power consumed at night. The
threshold should be set so that a consumer who "does the right thing"
will enjoy a modest savings in electricity costs. Thus the benefits are
shared by the consumers and the providers.

How will they do that when they're not home?  

+++If the power rates go down at 8pm and don't go back up again until
8am, then customers will move discretionary power consumption
accordingly -- washing and drying clothes, running dishwashers, etc.
Over time, one might expect to see more dishwashers, clothes washers,
and clothes driers with built-in timers or remote control capabilities.

Either at work or out of town.  How do you get 
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?

+++From an energy conservation and load balancing perspective, its not
necessary that every consumer participate, only that many consumers
participate. Those willing to pay for the privelege of not conserving
will effectively lower the rates for those who do conserve.

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
of this and have some form of control over it?

+++This works well as long as the "other reasons" don't generate
financial losses. While energy management can get a free ride from BPL
just as you suggest, it doesn't make BPL more attractive to consumers.

Utilities are notorious for 
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
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
out in the early 1980s.

+++The question is whether the degree of control you describe here is
justified -- either economically or operationally. Normally, one lets
the great wheel of capitalism sort out such questions; companies that
gratuitiously invest in controlling their own destiny are ultimately
destroyed by companies that invest more wisely. Unfortunately, we are
deprived of this mechanism in regulated industries.

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.

+++Thanks, Ed. Its been an enlightening discussion on this end.


       Dave AA6YQ

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