back to article California to snatch control of citizens' air-con

Californians will be forced to break out in a sweat whether they like it or not as part of an energy efficiency plan being considered by the state government. The plan, which would mandate “smart thermostats” in new and substantially rebuilt buildings, as well as overhauled heating and cooling systems, is included in a revised …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton

    'ere I am JMH

    I'm reminded of the film "Brazil", where Robert de Niro played a guerilla plumber who would swoop down from on high, fix people's plumbing, and then swoop away before the authorities found out. I can envisage a thriving trend in unofficial aircon modifications carried out by enterprising engineers in unmarked vans, who will offer to give people a special remote control for their house that overrides Central Control, and sends back false temperature readings.

    I can also envisage something going wrong at the power plant, and every person in California being cooked alive in their homes (the windows and doors will have to be centrally controlled in order to stop people from letting the heat out).

  2. Ken Hagan Gold badge
    IT Angle

    Patent Alert!

    "Utilities, faced with energy shortages, would be able to remotely adjust the thermostats in consumers’ homes, effectively cooling down heating systems and dialling back air-conditioning systems, to reduce power draw."

    IT angle? There's no security without physical security.

    IP angle? I'd like to publish prior art on the idea of a small heated half-open box that sticks to the wall around your thermostat and raises the temperature of that small space by a user-controllable number of degrees. When the power company dial your thermostat back, you dial the thermostat's environment forwards.

  3. Anonymous Coward

    The problem with thermostats

    ... is that most of them are in the wrong place.

    Far too many air conditioning systems measure the temperature that's coming out of the equipment instead of the temperature where the user actually sits.

    The result is that the room itself is always too hot or too cold, meaning that the user must continuously adjust the temperature up or down and the room will still always end unnecessarily hot or cold, especially if the user leaves the room shortly after adjusting the temperature.

    The installers are also a pretty thick bunch. I've seen offices with two or more independent systems, with no interconnection -- so its perfectly possible to end up one of them heating and the other cooling simultaneously. Similarly, air conditioning is installed in rooms with hot water radiators, and no interlinking to prevent them both fighting each other. Or, ventilation is by means of an openable window -- with the air conditioning, effectively, cooling the world outside as well as the office.

    To make real savings, every desk needs a radio-linked temperature sensor, all computer connected and monitored to know that the temperature in the room continues to rise for 11 minutes after the heating goes off, so that its power is substantially reduced early enough to not overshoot the desired temperatures.

    Finally, the people should remember that they have the ultimate energy-efficient temperature control at their disposal. By adding or removing clothing, they can take into account that some people like to be warmer than others and/or at different times of the day. And if that means people sometimes work in thick jumpers and at other times in the nude, that's probably quite a welcome novelty too.

  4. Sampler

    Licence to print money

    So when they have the spare capacity they can dial into homes and turn the aircon up/down so it draws more power and you pay a larger electric bill?

  5. John Macintyre

    @'ere I am JMH

    Or arguably more plausibly, your utility bill is so high during the year that they wait until the coldest days in winter to dial your heating down, thus freezing you in your home. too cold to run outside to the cold, too expensive to dial it up again.

    surely this needs permanent net connections? You can't dial into a box unless it's connected via phone/broadband/satellite (the latter being way too expensive surely). Can't they just cut the hardline (as they would say in the matrix)?

  6. Peter \Horne

    @ John Macintyre, What Hardline?

    Control is going to be via an FM receiver built into the thermostat.

  7. dervheid
    Black Helicopters

    In a sweat?

    Sweaty Californians? Perish the thought. Or is this some covert plan to reduce the Californian populace / obesity levels. we should be told.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I like it.

    *hacks into the home of the person who just cut him up on the motorway and turns the thermostat to -50*

  9. Spleen

    So much for a free market society

    The laws of supply and demand should be perfectly adequate to ensure that people use as much energy (in general and in relation to AC) as they can afford to. If they aren't, then the cause is virtually always incompetent government meddling, whether preventing adequate power supply being developed or refusing to allow consumers to be charged a sensible price.

    A limit on how much energy you're allowed to expend on air conditioning amounts to rationing, and should be referred to as such at all times to counter government spin. Rationing in a supposedly free country - in Soviet California, air conditioning controls you.

  10. Chris C


    This has got to be one of the stupidest ideas I've ever heard. Fortunately, I don't live in California. Regardless, I would absolutely refuse to give somebody else control over the heating and cooling that I pay for. Especially to give control to the people who are selling the service. "Hey Joe, it looks like our sales are down this month." "No problem, just lower the temp in everyone's home, which will draw more power for A/C, and we'll be back up to quota in no time." Not to mention the security implications of giving remote access to your environmental controls, possible health care issues for various people (such as those who can't deal with cold temps for age or medical reasons), and the associated cost of the thermostats and the remote connection.

    Has anybody actually thought of adding power capacity? Unless they outsource a large percentage of their workforce, the power requirements of the state are only going to grow over time. So invest in additional capacity and be ready for it instead of trying to cut back on usage now and being unprepared later.

  11. Matt

    The Mother Of All Hacks

    Seriously, short of NORAD, how much fun could you have with this?

    Go to a Ham radio flea market, buy some parts for cash well away from store surveillance cameras, buy a jug of helium from a party supply store and improvise your own weather ballon that 20,000' above Los Angeles on the hottest day of the year as the electrical grid is straining...tells every a/c to go to maximum output simultaneously.

    Three days later when the engineers finally have the power grid back up and running, it'll be the biggest story on TV.

    The utility folks saying it's all "encrypted" is just tempting fate...unless these thermostats cost $400 a pop, I can't see them having anything even remotely resembling secure.

    Oh wait, I get it -- it's more profitable for the power companies to speculate and trade on electrical futures and conspire with the envirowhackos and the envirosheep (mostly the envirosheep) to artificially constrain electric supplies and drive up prices and profits! Charge more...spend less! Bloody good business model.

    Why on earth would you charge more, but invest the money building nuclear / geothermal plants in geologically stable parts of the state, improve your transmission system, and upgrade your distribution system to higher voltage (the lines in the street, not the ones in your home)...when instead you can charge more and not make those investments!

  12. Kevin Kenny


    Wasn't the 2000/2001 'energy crisis' blamed partly on Enron and other energy trading companies for telling power stations to shut down so the traders could hike the prices during peak demands? I seem to remember this from watching The Smartest Guys In The Room movie.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters


    This, my friends, is incredibly spooky. Even if it worked exactly as advertised, the idea that the power company has direct control over a piece of physical equipment in my residence is... well... chilling.

  14. Christoph

    Field day for the lawyers

    How are they planning to deal with the class action suits when people die (quite possibly coincidentally) during heatwaves after their a/c is turned down?

    This is, after all, America. If it moves, sue it. If it doesn't move, sue it for not moving and then when it moves, sue it.

  15. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    Typical political solution

    So there is a supply problem, that much is proven. What's really funny is that, instead of increasing supply, or improving the infrastructure, the decision taken is to try and limit demand with Soviet-style management.

    As France has proved in the heat waves a few years ago now, old people have just as much trouble coping with heat than they do with cold. I do not see anywhere in that bill that the age of the occupant is going to be taken into account in the remote temperature-control procedure. So that has to mean that, if this wacky scheme is ever actually put in place, the day the utility company dials down the air-con to have demand meet supply, old people will be dropping of dehydration like flies above a vinegar jar.

    And if it can be proven that the utility company is responsible for dialing down the cooling and thus causing mass manslaughter, the mayhem in court that will follow will make Enron look like harmonious picnic.

    Now, I'm not against Americans learning to curb their outrageous level of resource wastage, but there are other means of doing so than by putting lives at risk. Increasing the cost of electricity is certainly one idea. If people still keep windows open while the aircon is active, then electricity is still not expensive enough.

    But I do think that, in this particular case, the utility companies are at least partly to blame for the shameful lack of supply. In the richest state of the most powerful country of the world, a brownout is certainly not something to be proud of.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    As Kevin Kenny says

    The then governor Gray Davis filed a lawsuit against the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for the public money that the state was forced to pay to the energy companies. When the Gropenfuhrer took office he dropped the lawsuit.

  17. Acme Fixer

    @ Peter \Horne & John Macintyre

    Here in So. Calif, the power company, AKA So Calif Edison, has their own VHF radio frequencies. All that's needed is a short whip antenna and a receiver and the device can be controlled. I see megawatt transformers supplying whole neighborhoods sporting a whip antenna, presumably to be controlled by the power company. Or else it might be for remote monitoring, but I don't see how since there is no way to meter usage of individual dwellings from this point.

    As for "The problem with thermostats" by anon coward, that's not really relevant. The systems on bldgs where I work are sort of like this. They chill water, and heat water, and both the chilled and heated water are then mixed at the package units in the room's ceiling to get the right temp. Well, hell! It's a designed and built-in energy waster! No wonder our electric bill is over a million dollars a year!

  18. Chris iverson
    Thumb Up

    HAHA the DWP saves me again

    For once Living in the City limits has its benefits

    I am not on SoCal Edison, My bills come from Los Angeles Department of Water and Power.

    Also I want to see them control my 2 window units that are presently broken

  19. ImaGnuber

    New Icon?

    Oh give me a break! Sometimes reading the Reg is like listening to a bunch of NRA (National Rifle Ass.) nutjobs.

    "You can have control of my air-conditioning when you pry it from my COLD dead hands!"

    Can we have a Chicken Little icon?


  20. Cameron Colley

    Solar power?

    What puzzles me is why no one has got solar powered air con working yet -- is it a pipe dream like google suggests? Failing that -- does everyone in California use the most efficient air con possible?

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Spleen - cheers!

    Now I know what SoCal is short for.

  22. Anony Mous

    Californian government

    The Californian government likes to try random stunts like this (it was also considering a ban on incandescent light bulbs).

    Speaking as a Californian, heating isn't a significant problem, but cooling sure is. We're talking 110 degrees Fahrenheit, in the shade. Any idiot politician that advocates state-controlled air conditioning here will find himself voted out of office, recalled or impeached.

    P.S.: Arnold was a pretty good "governator" until he started cow-towing to the kind of nutjobs that want to, for example, ban air conditioning.

  23. Scott

    This state will do anything except build more power plants

    California's been democratically controlled for decades.

    Instead of building natural gas or (gasp!) coal-fired power plants they just play politics with permits so only solar or wind can be built. Heck, they even grab my money away from me and throw it at solar and wind. Here, take it! And we still have power shortages.

    Welcome to a party unencumbered by the thought process.

  24. Tom

    There is an opt-in program like this in Toronto, Canada too.

    From the Ontario Ministry of Energy website.

    "peakSAVER Air Conditioning – the program's residential and small business/commercial version – gives Toronto Hydro the ability to remotely “cycle down” homeowners' central air-conditioners, water heaters and pool pumps when the electricity system is stretched."

    They offered us a wopping $25 to let them install the switch on our AC.

  25. Gordon

    Orwellian environmental controls??

    Leaving asside the moral and political debate for a moment*

    Given that these premises will all be linked up to the grid already, I wonder how technically difficult it might be to send the simple, low-bandwidth information required over the existing lines? All it really requires is for each property to be polled every minute or so by a computer on the nearest distribution board and the information to be relayed to a central processing room for billing and control to be carried out. If it were that simple, they'd probably be using it already to calculate bills, though.

    * IE "Do we give a supplier, operating for profit, the power and means to decide and dictate how much of their product we will buy??"

  26. MD Rackham

    So all that money...

    ...I spent on upgrading to the most efficient A/C system possible--including re-ducting the house--is wasted, because apparently the important thing is the temperature setting on the thermostat, not the amount of current the A/C is drawing.

    I've made my house as efficient as possible without tearing it down. My August bill was $225 instead of $850 the previous year--but that doesn't count for anything unless I'm also sweating like a pig.

    I'm no "free market" liberidiot, but in this case the market (i.e., my electric bill) will do a much better job of balancing comfort, A/C power consumption, and total power consumption than some centralized planning system. But apparently the Soviets had it right all along.

  27. Herby

    "Controlled" air conditioning...

    I've personally been "working" on this. Back a bunch of years ago I went to Tyler Texas (don't ask!) and the Motel I stayed at had "intelligent" thermostats. In those days, it sensed motion and only if you were moving around did it cool the room. My work partner and I saw this as extremely bad form, so we (in usual BOFH form) decided to "override" this "feature". It was a good thing, as we were there on one of the hottest most humid days of the year (remember it was Tyler Texas!). The most interesting thing was when we returned back to the room, and saw the condensate trails on the walkway. Most were small dribbles, but ours was a flowing stream. We had a wonderfully nice cool room that night and slept quite well. I can't say how the others in the motel faired, but I suspect they weren't as comfortable.

    If a law goes into effect like this, I can see a wonderful market for "adjustment" services, and I'll do my part to assist.

  28. Roland

    Yes, old people indeed

    One of the ways of dealing with extreme heat here in the US is to have the elderly stay indoors in malls and supermarkets if the heat is too much. Warnings are sent out on radio and TV every day.

    So can't imagine the backlash when people still die in their houses because of the utilities companies dialing up the heat, or even make it impossible to have the AC kick in...

    If only they would do away with the houses built of sticks and straw, and build more durable (and better insulated!) ones. Houses are nothing more than a slab of concrete, some 2x4's or 2x8's, particle board, siding and some roofing. Oh yeah, sometimes they include some insulation as well. What's the return on investment when you want triple-glazed windows, then everything around it is nothing more that sticks?

    But again, just like with how people use cars, there's a difference between energy use in Europe and the US. Tell me, why do you think the fridges are so huge compared to the European 'post boxes'? I think it's because there's not that many convenient stores in the neighbourhood, so instead of popping into the store every time you need something, you will get loads a stuff in one go. But you need place to store and keep it frozen of course, right? So there's the need for the coffin-like freezers for the basement. And most of these don't run that efficiently either.

  29. Anonymous Coward
    IT Angle

    It's been done before

    Utilities have been doing this for 25-30 years, but with less sophistication. Residential utility load management systems contain a radio/powerline carrier-operated switch that simply shuts off your air conditioning (or sometimes pool pump motors) for 30-60 minutes when demand starts to strain the system. In return, participants in the program get a lower rate.

    But it would be funny to hack the system and have the temperature in your annoying neighbor's home veer between arctic and tropical and then back again :)

  30. rd232

    Just chill

    If you bother to read the relevant part of the proposed standards (Section 112(c), pp63-4 in the PDF linked in the article), it's clear that under normal circumstances signals sent to thermostats are price signals only, and whilst there is mandated default behaviour about how to respond, the user can override that. This story has been elsewhere, and as a small step in fighting climate change (making users more aware of energy prices) is a good thing.

    The problem is with the "emergency" part - which basically gives temperature control to the signal emitter: intended to be the electric utility (if they add in a module to the mandated expansion port), otherwise the state of California. Problem A: hacking; problem B: if "emergency" is defined in the doc, I can't find it. Is there some technical criterion relating to electric system reliability (hopefully), or is it basically up to the CEO? Problem C: the existence of the system changes the economics of investing in more generating plant: brownouts/blackouts are bad for reputation, but with the emergency system, they can be avoided, so the utility's likely to invest less. (That's not necessarily wrong - but the savings will probably go mainly to shareholders.)

    My 2 pence: Dialling everyone's AC down a couple of degrees to prevent the electric system falling over in a well-defined emergency situation seems like a good thing - perhaps along with a message "please don't turn back up during this emergency unless you really really need to". Preventing user override, though, (a) makes a hacking via emergency system a real threat, as opposed to minor inconvenience (b) potential problems for the vulnerable (c) legal problems. Good luck with that...

    PS No-one seems to have made the obvious comment that the Governor of California is proposing to have the power to Terminate everyone's AC system...

  31. Eduard Coli
    Black Helicopters

    Expensive and stupid

    The rolling blackouts that were forced onto Californians were a result of market manipulation by Enron and others.

    Pretty soon Californians will be required to have a tv with a camera in it that watches them and can't be shut off...

  32. Henry B Messenger

    Mythbusting the 2000/2001 power crisis in CA

    The power crisis in 2000/2001 in California was caused by fraud.

    Period, full stop.

    Power plants were shut down intentionally, distribution system overloads were faked. Power generated in California was sold over the border into other states and then resold back to CAISO at 10 times the cost.

    The state bears the responsibility of huffing open-market hooey and putting together a power market that was easily defrauded. This doesn't excuse in any way those who were directly responsible -- the power companies (like Enron) who defrauded the state and were subsequently caught doing it red handed.

    Ken Lay of Enron was instrumental in getting our current governor to run in the recall campaign against Gray Davis, and Arnold repaid Lay immediately after taking office by dropping Lt Gov Cruz Bustamonte's multi-billion dollar fraud lawsuit against Enron et al.

    The idea that us Californians simply NIMBY'd our way into the crisis is a myth. The loads in 2000/2001 were not exceptional (they were higher in previous years and there were no problems), and as soon as Gov Davis signed extortionate long term rate contracts, there were no problems again.

  33. LaeMi Qian

    Solar power is quite popular in Ca

    ... well relative to other places anyway, I believe. Including sell-back-to-grid systems which I think I read it was compulsory for the utility companies to support there.

    So if you are selling power back to the grid, does that mean you get a bit-say in your neighbor's thermostat settings? Maybe some sort of web-poll-like thingy weighted by contribution? It is (supposedly) a great democracy over there, afterall! :-P

    I think the building-planning/renovation parts of the bill are more likely to have a useful effect than yet another million-odd devices drawing current from the grid as they monitor temperatures and adjust thermostats.

  34. Anonymous Coward

    The laws of supply and demand

    To the person who ranted about supply and demand: you are in principle correct. However, it is the case that most small and medium consumers of electricity do *not* pay prices which fully represent the market cost of providing their electricity **at the time they use it**, not yet, not in any country I'm aware of. (The UK tried this approach in the *wholesale* market for a while, I do not now whether it still does follow this approach).

    Anyway, most small and medium customers pay a fixed price per kilowatt hour. Big users already have "flexible pricing" where the price per kilowatt hour may vary with time, for example, electricity may be cheaper "off peak" than "on peak", which works well when big users are the largest part of the electricity demand. It has even been used with domestic supplies in the UK (eg the Economy 7 tariffs).

    That model doesn't work so well if the largest part of the demand comes from people whose heavy electricity usage is *not* sensitive to the cost of providing electricity *at the time they want to use it*. The time they want to use it is important, because (a) electricity cannot sensibly be stored (b) sizing a power distribution network to cope with unlimited demands can be really very very expensive, which makes electricity even more expensive.

    What market forces currently motivate the generating and distribution companies to keep the power supplies live at times of maximum demand? If it's easier+cheaper just to declare "emergency" when demand exceeds supply, and shut the network down, that's what they'll do (and that's what they've been doing in California, as I understand it).

    This proposed move to test "smart load shedding" is an entirely understandable response to the market's inability to provide enough electricity metered and priced in an appropriate way.

    If folk shut up and thought about it a bit, they might realise that completely shutting off *half* of California's air conditioning for (say) half an hour at a time, relying on thermal inertia to maintain coolness during that time, and then turning it on again for half an hour to make it stay cool, with 50% of premises "enabled" wrt aircon at any one time, just might save enough power for California to avoid grid and generator meltdown. Or it might not (there's some interesting sums to do).

    The market could have chosen to motivate people to work their heavy loads (eg aircon) that way by increasing the standard price price per kwh of electricity and offering a discount to people willing to have selected high-demand appliances temporarily disconnected at times of peak demand (the "off peak" concept, except that peak time is no longer defined by the clock on the wall, but by actual real electricity demand). No government intervention needed. The market chooses not to do that, so someone needs to intervene to make something happen.

    I'm not sure they've chosen the right something, if the reports are accurate, but there needs to be some mechanism for matching electricity demand to electricity supply, if the market isn't willing to invest in capacity and has no financial obligation to keep the supplies live.

  35. Mark

    Solar powered air con?

    Why can't aircon be completely solar powered on a per-house basis? Surely on a hot sunny day in CA there is enough solar power to run the aircon all day and charge a battery so that it can operate all night.

    It seems so stupid to burn fossil fuels in order to run a radiator backwards when the power is so obviously available from natural sources.

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not Quite

    I live in California. The reason we have a power issue here has nothing to do with populations migrating to hotter areas of the state, Enron, or any other such nonsense. Our electricity producing infrastructure is horribly out of date and needs upgrading. Period, end-of-story. However anytime the subject is brought up the green nazis scream and protest about how the poor endangered <fill in the blank> will suffer, how much it'll contribute to global warming, air pollution, water pollution, or any number of other bogus excuses. Good luck getting the left-wing state government to stand up to the screaming hoard. And, yes, this is the same state government trying to mandate electric vehicles to fight global warming, catastrophic climate change, or what-ever they've decided to call it this year.

    They can install one of these devices in my house AFTER they've installed one in each and every home in Hollywood, Beverly Hills, and San Francisco. Yeah, THAT'LL happen.

    Oh and to ImaGnuber, you can stuff your NRA-phobic crap. In a life-or-death situation you can run in circles pissing your pants and screaming like a little girl waiting for the Police to show up to defend your worthless hide. Don't like guns? DON'T BUY ONE. Until US law changes and gun are illegal to own, SHUT UP.

  37. Chris iverson

    ok so.....

    southern California is one of those places where it is most viable to build Solar power.

    I believe in 2007 we had something in the neighborhood of 330 days of constant sun.

    Right now my roof could be pawing my power bill but it isn't yet since the panels are still pricey but I think they can be subsidized here.

    As for the TV with a camera, monitored heating and cooling, I think before they submit that to me, they need to fix my street and stop my house from leaning towards it at the same time.

    Yay, fresh gov't overlords to replace old Gov't overlords

  38. Rich
    Thumb Up

    This isn't that new

    In NZ we have a device called a "ripple relay" in circuit with the hot water cylinder that switches it off at peak times. You can choose to buy uninterruptable power instead, but it's more expensive. Switzerland has much the same thing.

    New generation meters will allow more of this. Like having your dryer start up when cheap power is available.

  39. heystoopid

    So many myths in the age of the intertubes

    Nice to see the myth of the so called excessive electricity demand by all Californian peasants aircon units and hair dryers being plugged in at the same time that year is still doing the rounds to hide the ENRON fraud and the family of Ken Lay(or was he deliberately murdered and the doctors bribed to issue a false death certificate to stop him from spilling the beans on a certain chimp in DC?) is still laughing all the way to bank with the stolen loot from the company pension funds they got to keep because they bribed a few politicians with peanuts and illegally repaid numerous crooked noted legal fraternity who had also embezzled and stolen clients monies from their trust funds to invest in the can't lose energy investment scam (that one is all too easy to spot on the corporations final account the year before it went down in flames as it stands out like a sore thumb their corporate auditors were too stupid for words and should have been jailed for fifty to one hundred years apiece for conspiracy to defraud but the other big three are still doing the same old scams even now as we speak ) and then hired a few PR hacks to repeat the lies so often that they have become the new truth even though they do not hold water so as to speak ! So what silliness that goes around then is still moving in the same endless circle of lies and deceit even now !

    As Jack Nicholson would say "You can't handle the truth !"

    Looks like April 1st comes all too often and appears more then once in every month of the year now these days without fail and could be very fatal for the billions that live on this planet covered in a sudden epidemic of mushroom clouds until the silos electricity supplies run dry !

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Anonymous NRA fan

    Just - stay over there. Please. Kill all your neighbors if you like. Scream "there's a commie", "eek - a liberal", or any other irrational fears you may have, but just stay home and we can all sleep easier.


  41. Nexox Enigma

    Solar Aircon

    The various solar thermal aircon systems are so inefficient that it'd be better to generate electricity and then run a standard electric a/c unit.

    I guess I finally see the benefit of not having a/c. I've never even turned on my heater either. I normally get by with heat from my computers and varying my level of clothedness from near-nude to ski hats and sweatshirts. Saves a load on power bills though.

  42. Jason Rush


    Well simply put So Cal Edison and the other larger electrical provides here in California already have A/C controlled devices and they can install on your A/C unit's to shut them down, the only diff between those and what is being talked about here is that they are optional and you get credit 4 months out of the year for having them, i personally had one installed on one of my unit's, why not if im going to get credit on my bill the 4 hottest months of the year and they can only shut the unit off for a max of 3 hours per day and i can at any time have the device removed i see nothing wrong with that, now if you want to control my thermo thats a diff story, besides that what FM Blockers were invented for, additionally since there would officially be no way to tell if the thermo was there prior to later why not just order one from out of state and replace it?

  43. Tania Grant

    To clarify a few issues commented by others.....

    I live in California. My friend in Scotland provided this most interesting link regarding our power problems (more exciting than our earthquakes!).

    1. "Time of use" electricity: For about 30 years I've been on a plan that charged me higher rates from about 12 noon to 6:00 PM weekdays while giving me lower rates the rest of the day. Great, since I was working and no one was at home during the day. This type of plan is still in effect, however, it is voluntary and not many people sign up since it requires a new "smart" meter that costs an additional $2.00 or so a month.

    2. "Selling back" electricity from one's solar power on the roof is a myth. Now, in my new home, I have solar power. However, the power company is NOT buying the excess back; they merely give me credit during the summer months which I use during the colder winter months. Thus, my monthly rates are still considerably less than those who do not have solar.

    3. Walking around naked or in a bikini in the winter is an exaggeration; however, many many Americans insist on walking barefoot inside their homes even in the winter and turn up the thermostat because they are cold! I always have shoes or slippers on, mindful of the winter we spent at Greensted Green, near Chipping Ongar, Essex, England in a cute cottage (with no damp course), and where I went to bed with socks, thermal underwear and a flannel nightgown. One morning I removed the socks and stepped barefoot on the carpet! It squished back. Arrrgh. My husband checked his shoes that he left under the bed and they were green/grey with mold.

    4. Yes, Americans are wasteful. But so are many others in other parts of the world.

    5. I enjoyed reading all the comments, the sense of humour, and not much the vitriolic.

  44. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    NRA suxxors

    I don't like guns. I don't buy guns. The thing I don't like about guns mainly is other people pointing them at me.

    When did the inalienable right to overthrow government get replaced by the right to kill trespassers?

  45. Sergei Andropov

    In case you've forgotten...

    People died during the energy crisis. I am all for an alternative to rolling blackouts that shut off everybody's power indiscriminately.

    I am also in favor of the people responsible for the energy crisis being charged with, at the very least, negligent homicide, but that would require actual justice.

  46. skeptical i

    shoddy construction

    As Roland mentioned above, it'd be hella cheaper to heat/ cool homes if they were built to accommodate expensive leccy. Too many houses built in the Merrycan Southwest were built immediately after WWII when leccy was seen as cheap and plentiful, and the population shift from north/ northeast to southwest (made possible largely by widely available -- you guessed it -- air conditioning) of folks eager to see the USA in their Chevrolets, get their kicks on Route 66, et cetera. In fairness, some builders have deals with the local 'lectric co's to keep average daily costs down (i.e., if a home is built with such- and- such materials to so- and- so spec, the utility will allow the home to be marketed with a "utility guarantee" seal and there might be other goodies), but residents of homes in either older existing neighborhoods or in cheap- jack slap- 'em- up subdivisions are SOL.

  47. Scott

    Energy panel changes tune on mandatory control of energy

    (Maybe they'll change again, but this article seems to indicate they've backed off a bit)

    In an about-face, the California Energy Commission plans to give customers final control over the energy-saving thermostats that are to be required in new homes, Claudia Chandler, the commission's assistant executive director, said Friday.

    The so-called Programmable Communicating Thermostats are called for in a pending revision to state building codes.

    As initially proposed, these programmable thermostats would have deferred in emergencies to a radio signal from utilities, wresting control from customers.

    After public protests, Chandler said the commission staff has suggested letting customers choose whether to accept the emergency control.

    The staff will make the recommendation at the energy commission's Jan. 30 meeting in Sacramento. The changed proposal would be taken up at a later date.

    "The consumer or customer can override the emergency control," with the change, Chandler said.

  48. tony trolle

    So Cal Edison

    the current control box just stops the control signal (two wires) passing to the master relay; its not hard to 'jump' to relay.

  49. Larry Adams
    Paris Hilton

    @ Chris C

    << Has anybody actually thought of adding power capacity? Unless they outsource a large percentage of their workforce, the power requirements of the state are only going to grow over time. So invest in additional capacity and be ready for it instead of trying to cut back on usage now and being unprepared later. >>

    There's been many proposals to add power capacity, but each one runs into a buzzsaw of eco/enviro-freaks who object to ANY development, even when it would save lives, such as improving roads to bring them up to the ability to safely handle the traffic that's already using them... I used to commute on a 10-mile long two lane stretch of road that carries in excess of 40,000 cars a day, but the state can't get a proposal to widen it to four lanes, with a divider, past the eco-freaks because widening it might kill a salt marsh harvest mouse, which can't be told from a common house mouse and might impact some brine shrimp on the edge of an abandoned salt pond. That stretch of two lane road was widely known as "Blood Alley" until the state put a barrier down the middle... a ten mile long barrier, so that if you get stuck behind someone doing 30 mph in a 50 year old VW Beetle, you literally have no legal or safe way of passing him, although I have seen cars pass on the shoulder a couple of times.. Oh, did I mention that there is water on both sides of the road for more than half its length?

    Paris used because most of the eco-freaks are pure airheads.

    Late Night Larry

    Life is a Cabernet

  50. Larry Adams
    Paris Hilton

    @ Scott

    << Instead of building natural gas or (gasp!) coal-fired power plants they just play politics with permits so only solar or wind can be built. Heck, they even grab my money away from me and throw it at solar and wind. Here, take it! And we still have power shortages. >>

    Even when they build the wind turbines, most of them are kept shut down... I just returned from a long road trip, and we passed through two of the largest wind farms in the state (Tehachipi Mountains and Altamont Pass). Strictly a rough estimate, but it looked like about 80% of the wind turbines we saw in both farms were shut down (not turning) even though there was a decent wind in the area. It's been that way every time I've been through Altamont or the Tehachipis...

    Paris icon used because this state government is about as airheaded as the blonde.

    Late Night Larry

    Life is a Cabernet

  51. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Supply and Demand

    As an earlier AC posted, the laws of supply and demand do not apply here, but not just because the rates are not time-of-day dependent (as they have been in Switzerland for a couple of decades); also because California energy is not a free market. The CPUC tells the electric companies what they can charge. According to their published information: In setting electric rates, the CPUC establishes an electric revenue requirement for a future “test year” based on the utility’s cost of service.

    In other words, the government decides how profitable the electric company should be. That's not supply-and-demand economics, it's a managed economy. Have those ever worked efficiently? If a company spends research and infrastructure money to improve it's efficiency, does it have confidence that it will be permitted to make enough profit to recover the investment, or will that up-front expense become a donation to the greater good, while inefficient competitors book better revenue?

  52. Acme Fixer

    @ "The laws of supply and demand" by Anon Coward

    Quoted from comments:

    "The market could have chosen to motivate people to work their heavy loads (eg aircon) that way by increasing the standard price price per kwh of electricity and offering a discount to people willing to have selected high-demand appliances temporarily disconnected at times of peak demand (the "off peak" concept, except that peak time is no longer defined by the clock on the wall, but by actual real electricity demand). No government intervention needed. The market chooses not to do that, so someone needs to intervene to make something happen."

    So Calif Edison _has_ had that plan for more than a decade. We went on it for several years, and we received a break in the electricity rates for allowing them to restrict our usage of power. We had a KW meter for the whole campus, -- I have seen it go well past 2 megawatts on hot days -- which was monitored by So Cal Edison. When they had a power shortage they would call us on a dedicated line, and we were required to shed load, usually by shutting off the HVAC on larger buildings. That seldom happened until the energy shortage of 2000-2001. Because of the power shortage, we reckoned that we would be shutting down often (which meant "business as usual" could no longer take place and sending everyone home was likely), so we got off that plan, even though it cost us more.

    So "Been there, done that, got the T-shirt."

  53. Anonymous Coward

    Pussies .....

    Well here where I live where we have some of the most seasonal variations in temperature we just INSULATE our homes.

    I can walk around in the winter in bare feet while it is -45 outside and I can wear jeans and a sweater in the summer when it is +45 outside (well my AC would run all day but that is OK as we have the cheapest electricity in North America), I don't but I could.

    And yes we do need a Chicken Little icon

  54. Anonymous Coward

    @Acme Fixer 16:17

    Hey Acme Fixer, you're supposed to wear the T-shirt over your body not your eyes :)

    A little before the piece of rant you quote, yesterday's AC 18:24 already talked about "big users" having flexible pricing. You mentioned 2MW. I reckon that's a big user in most people's books; the news in the SoCal thing seems to be (a) applying it to domestic users (b) applying it direct to specific high-domestic-consumption uses. Or maybe not, if they're chickening out.

    Mind you it's been interesting in the interim to read here about various "demand management" mechanisms in various parts of the world, especially where they apply to domestic users as well as bulk users. The UK last year had its second energy policy review in a couple of years (the High Court ruled that the first one was sufficiently incompetent to be illegal), a review which His Supreme Holiness Pope Tony had already decided would lead to the next generation of nuclear bompower stations being built.

    The idea of domestic smart metering (and the ancient art of "ripple control", Google it) as a demand management tool may have been mentioned in the review but it certainly didn't reach the public debate which mostly centred on "nukes aren't safe enough" (true) vs "wind isn't reliable enough" (true) without much actual consideration of other more sensible, more rewarding, more achievable, possibilities, such as demand management. We're also placing far too much emphasis on reducing *domestic* consumption in the UK with naive measures like low energy light bulbs, while ignoring tried and tested sensible energy efficiency technologies such as CHP (which don't really apply on a domestic scale, in the same way as windmills don't).

    Power to the people. But not too much, please.

  55. Etienne

    there's always an override - it's just a matter of figuring it out

    The apartment complex I once lived in forced these things on their tenants as part of a deal to save them some money with the electricity supplier.

    They claimed it "wouldn't make any effect the temperature" if they cut off the A/C power for 20min/hour at peak time "because A/C units cycle anyway"

    ... Fortunately a least a few tenants had grasped enough basic high school physics point out in no uncertain term they were talking rubbish.

    By the way - service techs also need to be able to get the A/C running during repairs so there's always an override - it's just a matter of figuring it out.

  56. N
    Thumb Down

    Feelin' HOT HOT HOT

    The problem is that the thermostat control scheme works as such:

    When peak demand is high, your AC temperature will be raised, in result making it hotter.

    So, during a heatwave, you can depend on not having any AC running at all. This would be a definite crunch for those of us who choose to live on a top floor (devoid of stomping).

    So what does that mean for your average Joe? HOT HOT HOT.

    To anticipate this:

    - <b>Store any chocolate or soft, low melting point products</b> (such as some cookies, biscuits, anything containing caramel or any candies) <b>in the fridge, as they cannot regulate your fridge power consumption.</b>

    - <b>Leave windows open, or fans on for your pets, make sure they have plenty of water.</b> During the day they will be turning off your AC altogether, and turning it on just before you arrive home, if not after.

    - <b>No on-demand cooling if you have more guests in your home.</b> Too bad if body heat destroys your summer gathering.

    - <b>Turn off PCs when not in use.</b> Too bad if you want to download that huge file, you'll need to turn off your machine during the day or risk over heating, or coming home to a hot hot hot machine in this sometimes 90+F world.

    - <b>Take showers to lower your body temp.</b> Cold water does wonders, wetting your hair as well.

    - <b>Drink lots of water.</b> Iced water. Keep a pitcher in the fridge for a quick cooldown option, or an icepack placed neatly between your shoulder blades will make you cool.

    It's disaster planning for utility company-owned management. Yay for having no control!

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