Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Why you should care about Smart Meters and the Smart Grid

Updated and revised on 6/25/14

In April 2014, New Hampshire customers paid over 15 cents per KWH for electricity versus 12.1 cents paid by Maine customers.  Over half of Maine’s electricity comes from renewable energy sources, while NH gets only 12.2% of its electricity from renewables.  Maine has deployed Smart Meter technology to virtually every customer, while NH covers less than 15%. (Sources: Eia.gov and Innovation Electricity Efficiency)
New Hampshire is behind the curve on adopting smart meters and smart grid technology.  An August 2013 report by Innovation Electricity Efficiency, an Institute of the Edison Foundation, notes that as of 2013, 40% of US Households were served by smart meters.  New Hampshire is expected to reach 15 to 40% deployment by 2015 according to the same report. 
There are two successful projects in New Hampshire to date:
In 2010, New Hampshire Electric Coop (NHEC) deployed smart meters to 83,000 customers in the Plymouth, NH, area. NHEC is now piloting Time of Use (TOU) pricing to encourage customers to reduce power during peak demand in exchange for lower pricing. 
A project by Unitil, which serves the Concord, NH and Fitchburg, MA areas, deployed smart meters to its 104,000 customers..  The April, 2014, New Hampshire DRAFT State Energy Strategy, reports:
"A similar TOU program run by Unitil targeted residential consumers with central air conditioning systems and found highly favorable results. The pilot resulted in a reduction of peak and critical peak usage by 34.0% for simple TOU customers, and up to 69.8% for customers with enhanced technology that allowed them to automate their air conditioner’s response to peak pricing events."
PSNH is scheduled to deploy 550,000 Itron advanced meters by 2015.  
The Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) has a special interest group, IEEE SmartGrid.  In a September 4, 2013 online article, "Smart Grid Consumer Benefits," Dr. Massoud Amin, Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Director of the Technological Leadership Institute at the University of Minnesota responded to questions about the cost/benefit of the Smart Grid.  Dr. Amin noted that while the total cost of deploying a smarter grid for the US would cost up to $480 billion, the savings would exceed $70 billion per year, reduce CO2 emissions by 12-18%, and increase system efficiency by over 4 percent.
Regarding the issue of exposure to RF from the Smart Meters:
 (Resource:An Investigation of Radiofrequency Fields Associated with the Itron Smart Meter" Electric Power Research Institute, December 2010):
  • RF exposure from a smart meter is far below—and more infrequent—than other common electric devices. In fact, smart meters typically broadcast their signal for less than a minute at a time and usually less than a total of 15 minutes each day. The communication is usually from outside the customer’s home, so exposure to radio waves is minimal. In addition, the electric panel and wall behind the meter actually block much of the radio signal from entering the home.
  • RF is measured in units of microwatts per square centimeter. A microwatt is very small—it’s one-millionth of a watt.
-          Held at your ear, a cell phone’s RF signal would be 1,000 to 5,000 microwatts per square centimeter.
-          Standing two feet from a microwave oven, the RF signal would be 50 to 200 microwatts per square centimeter.
-          Standing 10 feet from a smart meter, the RF signal would be 4 microwatts per square centimeter.
In summary, the RF signal emitted by a smart meter is one order of magnitude less than proximity to the microwave oven, and 1000 fold less than cell phones held to our ears."
Critics complain that smart meters lack UL labels, but fail to mention (or don’t know) that analog meters don't have UL labeling either since UL labels are intended for consumer products; not utility equipment.  Similarly, stories about rare house fires related to smart meter installations also apply to the installation of analog meters.  
Any deployment of new technology warrants a cost benefit analysis.  No one would hold a cellphone to his head if there weren't a compelling reason for it.  A smart grid will allow us to better control and manage our electrical infrastructure with significant savings to the consumer and the utilities.  Smart meters matter because you can't manage what you can't measure.  

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Memorial Day: Thank you, Rindge!

Did you know we almost didn't have a Memorial Day Celebration in Rindge this year?  It's true.  The RVA took over Memorial Day planning back in 2001 or 2002.  Prior to that, the Chamber, the Woman's Club, the Town, the RAMS, POOR and all the organizations put a committee together to organize the observances and events.
Well, time marches on and the RVA, while growing it's membership, finds that they are getting too old to be responsible for all the arrangements.  The younger veterans are still raising children or are in demanding careers that leave little time for all the required tasks.  The Town pays for most of the expenses, but someone has to file the paperwork, collect invoices, develop the program, contact all the groups that will march or volunteer services, get wreaths, arrange for music, and file a multi-page form for requesting a Town event.  Michael Krygowski of the RVA still did all the work of coordinating with the Boy Scouts to put flags on the graves of veterans.  Paul Stewart and the RVA provided a Ceremonial Guard for the RMS School Assembly, provided a Parade Marshal and Ceremonial Guard for the parade, and for Memorial Day at COTP on May 30th.  In addition, Paul Stewart picked up and returned the grill used for the picnic.
I would like to thank the RVA for all the years that they organized Memorial Day for Rindge.  And, I also offer thanks for all the things they still do to make Memorial Day a meaningful event.  It touches my heart to see WWII veterans still marching with us or riding the float.  Captain Craig Clark did a great job as Parade Marshal in his first year.  Still, we miss Sgt.Major Earl Marshall leading the parade as he did for so many years.
For my part, I had to use a waistband expander to fit into my shirt and felt my hip hitch a couple of times when we marched up the hill from the school during the tributes.  I can't ignore the fact that I've been wearing that same skirt for 15 years now...and marching with the same old bones.  I'm not ready to give it up yet, but I have to face the fact that time does march on for all of us. 
So, the RVA passed the baton for organizing Memorial Day back to the Town in late February or March.  Could the Town get it together in time?   Town Administrator, Jane Pitt, reached out to the community to see what could be done.  Should we have a simple service at the Meeting House and forget the rest of it?
Memorial Day is tricky for Rindge because we don't have our own High School Marching Band.  We share the Conant Band with Jaffrey...so, we are constrained in terms of scheduling. We could all just go to Jaffrey and celebrate with them.  Memorial Day in Jaffrey is wonderful!  So many veterans march and receive a wonderful welcome at the American Legion and Jaffrey VFW after the parade, that it's hard for Rindge to compete.
But, then, what of the Tributes at the Memorials?  Memorial Day observances in Rindge stretch far back in our history as a Town.  It is part of our identity.
On my advice, Jane reached out to Linda Bussiere to see if she would chair the event with the help of the Town.  Linda, working two jobs, caring for an aging parent, and generally having a busy and demanding life, made the commitment to keep the tradition going.  I volunteered to help, as did Dennis Casey, Paul Stewart (representing the RVA), Amy Raymond, Jeannette Gutteridge (representing the RWC), Carol Donovan (representing P.O.O.R), Annette Williams, Nicole Sesia, Jane Pitt, Deb Douglas, and all the Department heads.  The R.A.M.S. lent their muscle to helping set up the Common with tables, chairs and tent.  The Boy Scouts helped with many tasks; putting out no parking signs, carrying wreaths for the tributes and parade and assisting the RVA in putting out flags on the graves of the veterans.  Kim McCummings was there first thing in the morning to help put out the signs and generally set things up for the day.  She just shows up every year without being asked!   Thanks to Pam Shuel and Phyllis Sesia for helping to collect all the signs after the parade.  Again, they just showed up to help without being asked!
Thanks to the Rindge Woman's Club for doing all the cooking, preparing and serving of the picnic.  And a deeply felt thank you to Hannaford's for donating all the food, drinks, ice, and chips as they have for so many years.  Jeanne and Nick Carguilo and Deb and Jim Qualey organized, cooked, served, cleaned up and made it all work beautifully!
Thank you to Jennie Aho and her group for performing during the picnic.  Jennie performs patriotic selections, plus several of her own beautiful and moving compositions.  Due to concern about "stepping off" on time, Jennie's performance was cut short and we deeply apologize for that!  We will try to start the whole day 1/2 hour earlier next year so that this doesn't happen again. 
Thanks to Music Teacher, Deb Rainey, and the RMS Chorus and Band.  The sweet voices of the children and their beautiful faces and spirits are a highlight of the day and always bring a tear to my eye.  It is for their shining futures that our wars were fought.
The Conant Band did a wonderful job, as usual and despite challenges, and really made the parade something special for us.
Thanks to Savron Graphics and Rob Crowley for printing such a beautiful program for us!  It is a real keepsake!  Dennis Casey did all the layout and was extremely nice and patient with us in that last week!
Thanks to Eric Poor for the wonderful biography for our very deserving Grand Marshal, Kathy McKinney!   
Dana and Becky Ryll of Fieldstone Farms turned a couple of benches and a flatbed trailer into a beautiful float, complete with canopy, to carry our veterans, who no longer march, in real style!
Reverend Jadlocki not only delivered moving and relevant tributes to our fallen, but also innovated a PA system so that we could actually hear his prayers and reflections on this solemn day.  
Thanks to all the local veterans who showed up to fill out the Ceremonial Guard.  It is great to see the young veterans making the commitment to join us in honoring our fallen heroes!
Annette Williams of Fawn'd Memories did a wonderful job with the wreaths.  They were absolutely stunning!  Thanks to P.O.O.R for paying for the materials to make them.
Thanks to the Highway department for organizing and readying the signs, putting the tent together , setting out picnic tables on the Common and making the transfer station available for parking.
The RPD and Larry Harris were with us all day, safeguarding the marchers, and helping with communications and set up.
The RFD did us the great honor of marching with us.  They looked so sharp!  It is very touching the way they line up outside of the cemetery to salute the colors as they pass.  We also thank them for putting up the barricades and taking them down again after the parade, and keeping an eye on our health and safety throughout the parade.
Thanks to Rae DuVernay and the Beautification Committee for the plantings at all the Memorials.  This is truly an act of love for the town that we enjoy all year!
Thanks to the Rec Department for the use of the grill, picnic tables, and bullhorn.
But, MOST OF ALL, thank you to Linda Bussiere who held it all together, arranged for the 6th NH to join us, and MADE IT FUN!   There would have been no Memorial Day in Rindge without her efforts!  She put out a million little fires and took care of details that would boggle the mind in a very short time.  For me, the best part of this Memorial Day was the joy of getting to know Linda and the fun of working with her.
I am posting this blog because there is no way that I could thank all the people involved in the proscribed length of a Letter to the Editor!  In fact, I'm sure, despite my efforts, I have probably missed people who helped behind the scenes.  Please know that I am grateful to you as well!  Thank you one and all for making Memorial Day in Rindge such a beautiful event!
I always think to myself that the reason we have these town events is partly to remind ourselves that we CAN pull together as a community for the greater good...in good times and bad.