*** All Rights Reserved � Alex Weir 2013 ***
Ultra-smart electricity Meters to reduce load-shedding in the Third World
Electricity Load-shedding is a irritating problem which afflicts many Third World Countries. It is an economic problem when it affects industry and commerce, and it is a negative factor on life quality when it affects domestic consumers (especially during evening peak hours � which are usually after dark).
Load shedding is often a problem caused by peak demand � usually with the evening peak at 1700 � 1900 hrs being a greater problem than the morning peak of 0600 � 0900 hrs. But sometimes the actual total demand per day is also a problem.
For mass-market power generation, capital costs per installed kiloWatt are typically US$ 1500; cost per kiloWatt-hour of energy are typically US$ 0.10. For small 3 kwatt generators, costs are typically US$ 200/kWatt capital and US$ 0.50 /kWatt-hr fuel and running costs.
Demand over a month for a middle class family of 6 might be typically 0.5 kWatt average (360 kWatt-hr/month), with a peak of 7.2 kWatt (30 amps x 240 volts) � the peak being caused mainly by hot water geysers and electric stoves and bar fires/ space heating during winter.
In typical third world countries, load-shedding might be used to cope with an overall shortfall of say 15% of total demand. Such a shortfall can cause serious discomfort to domestic and industrial and commercial users.
Alternatives to load-shedding are:
increase installed capacity
use smart meters to lop demand from geysers during peak hours morning and evening. Note that where electricity shortages are combined with water shortages, then geysers may be empty or inoperational, and people may heat water on their stoves. Therefore sometimes geyser-oriented-smart-meters may not be effective
ask consumers to modify their consumption behaviour by switching to LPG for cooking and water heating, switching off swimming pool pumps, manually switching off hot water geysers if they do not already have a smart meter, etc..
pricing electricity so high that people will find it better to use fuelwood, solar water heating, LPG etc.. This pricing can be a fixed high charge, or can be a very steep increase after a certain consumption per meter per month has been reached � i.e. a very punitive tax or tariff for heavy consumers (which can however greatly penalize large or extended families and under-penalize small families who are however heavy users)
Encourage the widespread use of private generators, either for individual households or on a group basis, serving maybe 10 or more households.
Additional conventional remedies can also include a radical group behaviour system whereby each district of a town or city can be given an undertaking that no load-shedding will occur if their collective consumption for that district does not peak at more than xxxx kiloWatt. However, such remedies, which would probably work in countries such as Germany, Japan or China, would probably not work in Africa, where selfish behaviour and lack of community spirit is regrettably quite common.
Smart meters are these days used for:
prepayment of electricity
peak lopping by using separate wiring for hot water geysers and by disabling that circuitry during peak hours (usually involving some signalling by radio or by modulation of the electricity signal coming to the meter)
variable pricing according to demand coming through the meter and the time of day and the wholesale pricing by energy producers and suppliers to the distribution company. Such complexity usually requires that the meter connects itself to the internet.
I propose that there are advantages building the following additional features into smart meters:
the utility company can transmit to all or to selected meters a variation in the maximum allowable peak load during all hours with another figure being the maximum allowable peak load during peak demand hours. Any household where these kWatt demand are exceeded will then be immediately subjected to a local individual household load shedding lasting say 5 minutes before automatic re-connection
the utility company can also have specified a maximum kWatt-hr per day and/or per month. The figure per day should run say from 1600 hrs to 1600 hrs, so that any daily excess load-shedding is completed before darkness. Monthly based load shedding would be very unattractive to the consumer, therefore preference should be given to daily load shedding.
Transmission of instructions can be by radio signal, by modulation of electricity signal, or by a mobile telephony sim card in every meter
some special procedure can be hopefully applied for households which have life-saving electrically powered medical equipment requirements
there can be default behaviour built into the meter � default settings � so that if the communication facility is somehow lost, then some limiting still occurs (this limiting may be less or more severe than the limiting which occurs when communication is active)
The net effect of these ultra-smart meters is to change from collective district-wide load-shedding towards individualised household-based load-shedding, with a very strong motivation towards ‘good behaviour’ and the utilisation of alternative energy sources (such as LPG, solar, fuelwood etc..)
The meters can be designed for a dual mode of pre-payment or conventional post-usage invoice and payment.
Economics of such a scheme
I have found it difficult to get figures on costs of conventional and smart meters (since these tend to be bought by utilities in bulk and are usually not available as retail items), but I guess costs to be in the region of $50 for a dumb meter and $150 for a smart meter. Compare those figures with $1500 per additional installed kWatt generation capacity and I think the case in favour of ultra-smart domestic electricity meters is quite clear.
What I would recommend is that all proposed and on-going smart-meter installation programs be halted or paused until the ultra-smart meters are available. I am guessing a 6 month design and development lead-time before such meters can become commercially available.
I will levy a one-off royalty fee of $0.10 per ultra-smart meter, which I will use primarily to fund my philanthropic activities as per my website http://cd3wd.com/
Alex Weir, Plot 25500, Block 9, Gaborone, Botswana. 6 June 2013
*** All Rights Reserved � Alex Weir 2013 ***