Why utility companies sometimes want to control your smart thermostat


Modern one The most satisfying determination in life is to switch on the air conditioner, then sit down, and the room magically maintains the temperature you choose.But last week, the owners of the Texas smart thermostat reported that the magic had disappeared: their device set itself to a temperature 4 degrees higher than the homeowner’s expectations, as if scolding them for trying to get and also Comfortable in the heat wave. a lot of Brutality come behind.

Enthusiastic Texans stumbled into an unstable power supply and demand relationship. When they buy a smart thermostat, they choose to participate in a voluntary program called Smart Savers Texas provided by EnergyHub, a software company that runs the program for utility customers, including CenterPoint Energy. In times of high demand, such as a relentless heat wave, they agreed to allow 4 degree bumps.According to EnergyHub, during such a “temperature adjustment event”, users can manually increase coverage, but they will lose the chance to participate in the sweepstakes-paying up to $5,000 One year’s electricity bill. Anyone who wants to withdraw from this demand response program can simply unregister.

Basically, you have to tolerate a slightly hot room to ensure that your air conditioner does not crash the grid. In this case, both you and everyone else have to endure a lot of Hotter room. EnergyHub is one of several companies that run a demand response program across the country. Their program has nothing to do with equipment, so there will not be only one brand of thermostat users who notice an increase in demand. “The real benefit of these plans is that the inconveniences are very small—perhaps no inconvenience—to ensure that everyone has HVAC and lighting during these extreme weather events, which I think are becoming more common. ,” said Erica Diamond, Vice President of EnergyHub Customer Solutions.

A representative of CenterPoint Energy sent a statement via email to WIRED explaining the partnership: “When CenterPoint Energy initiates a power curtailment event based on high temperature or high demand, EnergyHub then initiates the curtailment through its customers who have registered for its program. Electricity.”

According to the e-mail, the utility company conducts a “test curtailment” twice a year, and conducts it once from 2 pm to 5 pm on June 16. The way the Texas scale anger unfolded, you would think it was a complete surprise. But EnergyHub not only ran the eight-year program there, it also launched a similar program with 50 other utility companies across the country, with approximately 500,000 households registered. It initiates two to eight temperature adjustments in Texas every summer, roughly the same as the national average. Incentives for membership may vary from utility company to utility company—for example, rebates on energy bills—but the goal is the same: to enlist the help of customers to prevent the power grid from shutting down.

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In other words, when supply is insufficient, these plans reduce demand.David Victor, a political scientist at the University of California, San Diego, said: “The size of the grid can maintain an instant balance of supply and demand because the cost of storing electricity is very high,” he co-authored Major recent reports On the U.S. power grid. Any electricity generated must be used immediately. “If storage becomes ubiquitous and inexpensive, then this may completely change the way the grid actually operates. But now, in order for electronics to pass through the grid and keep the grid stable, you have to match supply and demand,” he continued.

Utilities are fully aware of the stress that heat waves will put on the grid, and all these AC devices are buzzing. They can even predict how demand will fluctuate during the day, for example when people get home from get off work at around 5 or 6 pm and turn on their systems. This is also a time when supplies are tight-utilities can only generate so much electricity at a given time. “During these periods, the grid is very sensitive-one or two percent of total demand can have a huge impact,” Victor said. “That’s why there is such a big premium in finding strategies that can reduce demand a little bit or shift it to a different time of day. This will have a significant impact on total electricity demand.”



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