Unified district utility business plan

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A unified district utility business plan would deal with both power and data, necessarily. It would cover also HVAC and water and sewer advanced metering infrastructure, and outline ways the utility itself could provide these to at least some of its customers. In some circumstances district heating or district lighting might also be included, that is, not only the metering of, but the provision of, the service, could be part of the mandate of the unified utility.

See micro-grid controversies and choices on the problems any such unified utility would face, the new grid for background on the technical/operating standards and beyond telcos for the economics.

examples[edit]

Virginia[edit]

See Virginia.

Tennessee[edit]

See Tennessee.

Nova Scotia[edit]

See MEUNS gigabit grid for a public discussion about the issues around any such plan for the Municipal Electric Utilities of Nova Scotia. See Riverport Board of Trade 20111122‎, Lunenburg Board of Trade 20120110‎ and Mahone Bay Centre Cafe Canada 20120427 for considerations specific to those two communities. and Lunenburg Region power grid 2012 on how they can pursue a convergent strategy.

the argument for HVAC, water, sewer[edit]

While it seems like an entirely different problem, the conduits and earthworks and drainage required to do a good job of any unified power and data network are similar to those required for water and sewer (or septic) systems. Accurate metering of water, sewer and HVAC systems is extremely profitable and strategic especially for municipalities that bill for these now or are exposed to the costs of repair when problems go undiagnosed. Modern HVAC, water and sewer systems may have aereation or ventilation or valves or other servo-driven controls. Even regulations regarding roof water may require these, for instance to dump the first few gallons of water from a roof to avoid contamination of the non-potable supplies used on gardens. The complexity of such baseline systems may not be much less than that of a full non-potable water system.

Furthermore, autonomous buildings are required for emergency situations and the more residences capable of operating so, the less the burden on emergency services. Integrating heating, cooling, ventilation and water going both in and out from a variety of sources into the monitoring and control network could easily pay for itself in mold and flood prevention.

revenue streams for unified utility (power and data) services[edit]

The only way to pay for a smart grid, in those more sane jurisdictions that do not permit the powerco to put fixed charges on power bills to pay for infrastructure, is (in the order of the public's willingness to pay for them)

  • negawatts (someone pays you for a watt you saved them to use elsewhere, the customer gives up a 5 cent kilowatt to save someone a more expensive one and can get a portion of that savings back)
  • climate offsets (received by the powerco for any savings, esp. peak)
  • voice service running on the same communications as the smarter home/grid
  • TV service running on the same communications as the smarter home/grid
  • data service running on the same communications as the smarter home/grid
  • jacked-up per-kilowatt rates (always good, encourages conservation)

mobile revenue[edit]

The mobile device will be an open platform like Google Android, and there will be no way to prevent it from using VoIP or data services from any third party that can run a wireless access point (AP) out of any back window. A lot of new phones can accomodate two or three SIP connections over WiFi in addition to their GSM network.

It'll be pretty normal by 2012, standard by 2015, to buy only open phones and program them to find the best deal for any given call from one of two or three networks. The monopoly will have broken down to the call by call level. There will be literally no advantage to being the incumbent carrier.

In the meantime a lot of money will be made offering long distance cordless (using equipment like Senao) or WiFi phone services to those who'd otherwise use cell phones over GSM, and pay for every minute. More revenue.

"district" utilities already exist and are getting more prevalent[edit]

There are many existing community co-operatives, apartment complex or industrial parks, and other entities like native reserves, that could or should take control of their utilities. Putting in their own electric storage & generating devices is a popular idea but it's an economic loser if they're still relying on the monopoly powerco and communications companies to carry the data and optimize their usage. It just can't be done properly above a district / neighbourhood / village scale. On the largest scales, cities like Miami are relying on Silver Spring to unify the power and data with many underlying service and equipment providers.

features no other utility can offer[edit]

Typical services deployed include:

  • "“in-home energy displays or “eco-panels” to help manage electrical loads and lower power use during peak periods,”
  • “smart appliances that can communicate with smart meters to reschedule high-energy functions or switch to a lower-consumption mode during peak demand periods”
  • “programmable and smart-meter-controllable thermostats”
  • “demand management and demand response software that will manage consumer appliances, lighting and other devices using smart meters.”"

If the utility is contracting to provide not "power" as such but heat, lighting, DC power to the device, refrigeration/freezing, etc., then it would be up to the utility to decide how to deliver those services. Write the contract correctly and let the utility own and update all the power-using and power-wasting devices in the home. So a lot of crappy electric area heaters disappear and a few basements get insulated and that's paid back over some years on the bill, while some always-on devices get replaced by smarter ones, with the utility itself managing the bureaucracy of qualifying for the grants and rebates, and the utility itself keeping some portion of the savings...

Canadian aboriginal enterprises could do this more easily than others[edit]

When considering a unified district utility for a reserve, consider that:

  • the band owns the land and has all the rights of access required to fix or upgrade things, including often the housing itself
  • aboriginal enterprises get favourable tax and credit treatment especially in economic stimulus programs
  • there's lots of aboriginal youth who understand this tech extremely well and can learn what they need to know in a very short time, qualifying for job training money and eventually wiring up all the nearby communities
  • aboriginal culture money can perhaps provide seed where local TV and/or radio stations are being set up to run on the unified district utility
  • aboriginal housing is in crisis and any excuse to get in and fix stuff that is obviously wrong could improve things - that is while insulating one might find mold problems, while wiring one can find and seal to exclude bugs, etc.

Also there's the question of autonomy and developing basic economic capacity:

  • bands using a utility they have a stake in, that runs their own encrypted communications including wireless, building capacity for business services
  • the utility could offer reserve-to-reserve secure links to enable high level conversations fit for nations to discuss with nations
  • best practices can spread relatively rapidly to other reserves nearby and there's a natural market affinity and service market in advice and guidance

unacceptable services from incumbents[edit]

Ultimately, as with governments, one ousts a utility for simply not performing:

Some reasons why customers might prefer to oust an incumbent powerco or ISP:

  • fixed charges to pay for infrastructure that doesn't benefit the customer, like non-IPv6-non-G.9960 not-smart meters
  • attempts to lock out players like Silver Spring, IBM, GE, Google who all have services to unify information from various devices and show them to the consumer, that are independent of the hardware and bandwidth between
  • failure to cooperate with established home control players (like Zigbee)
  • giving up data indiscriminately to major corporations like Google without explicit customer permission
  • meter data latency which could be up to 24 hours in the worst case