Low Flow TVs and Smart Meters

The headline read: California Sets Energy-Efficiency Rules for TVs. Wall Street Journal, Nov. 19, 2009.

The goals are clean air, energy conservation, saving water, saving rain forests, keeping forests from logging, reducing congestion, the environmental panoply. The list of things local, county, state, national, and now international governments are willing to do to constrain individual choice is long and imaginative. Hybrid car mandates. CAFÉ standards. Energy efficient appliance mandates. Import quotas. Recycling subsidies. Insulation subsidies. Subsidies for wind and solar power.

I love the idea of smart meters, house-mounted electric meters that get minute-by-minute information about the price of power. The homeowners’ computer can program the air conditioner to wait 5 minutes, hoping for cheaper power to enter the grid, before starting up the AC. The clothes dryer can wait until the target price for power is available on the grid, then dry that load of clothes. Wind power after midnight could be cheap, cheaper than coal power between 5-8 p.m. when everyone else is trying to do things at home.

The concern is that government would not be content to let you choose when to dry your clothes or how many light bulbs to leave on. They would reach into your smart meter and your controlling computer and tell you how much power you can consume. National imperatives, global demands require it. And don’t think for a moment that they wouldn’t. They have shown willingness to encroach in the most minute personal decisions, such as what kind of TV you can buy, in an effort to save the environment. This quells my enthusiasm for smart meters.

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