Tyler (Everything)

13Dec/075

Peaksaver: Big Brother Genius or Big Brother Lazyness?

My mom phoned me a few days ago asking what I thought about the Hydro Ottawa Peaksaver thermostat. She got a note in the mail asking if she wanted to participate in the pilot program. The gist of the idea is that Hydro Ottawa installs a $250 programmable thermostat free, the catch is that Hydro Ottawa would be able to control the thermostat remotely. They say that they will bump up the temp on the hottest days of the year by a maximum of 1-2 degrees which will ease the load during the peak times. You can get further details in this CBC article.

So all this sounds good right? Perhaps, but I have a few questions.

The first thing I want to know is whether you can override it. The answer is yes and no! When I first heard about this program, I had heard that if you didn't want the temperature increase you could override it. According to the FAQ that isn't true. You can't override the increase, but you can mark yourself exempt from an increase on a given day, but you have to call and request the exemption, and you can only do it for 2 days a year. Not exactly would I call convenient.

My next question is whether you can tell that they have taken control of your thermostat. I can't find an answer to this effect, but they do say that typically, most people do not even notice that the temperature has been raised. That makes it seem to me that they don't really want the user to know when its being usurped. That bothers me, I would want to know exactly when its being used.

Based on those two issues, I would say at the moment its not worth precipitating.

On another hand I would like to look at whether this is really a good solution for energy concerns. The answer is NO! This is pure lazyness. This is not dealing with the root causes of Ontario's energy problems.

There are some simple facts that need to be dealt with. First the cut backs made by consumers cause Ontario Hydro to raise rates, to ensure that they made the same amount of money. Great incentive to cut back right? The next issue is that cutting back does not deal with increasing population growth, and energy needs. What needs to be done is not to control peoples lives, but rather to improve the infrastructure to provide Ontario residents with an adequate grid. Controlling users thermostats doesn't change the fact that Mr. McGuinty promised to do away with the old coal fired power plants, and did... well nothing.

The simple fact, is that this is an easy solution rather than an intelligent solution. Plans need to be put in place to provide incentive for smart usage:

  1. Provide users with rate freezes provided that year over year energy usage is decreasing
  2. Lower property taxes through the replacement of appliances with more energy efficient models, replacement of old air conditioners with more efficient models, and doing energy conscious renovations to homes -such as new windows-
  3. Improve power grid through creation of new nuclear facilities that can support Ontario's user needs, rather attempting to control users needs
  4. Increase costs based on peak times, and make information readily available. Your meter should include readings of current dollar per hour, and price per kilowatt.

Doing one or all these things would encourage smart behavior rather than force acceptable behavior. If you really want to make a difference you need people work for you, rather than being controlled by you. Unless of course you're a fascist...

***EDIT***

I just thought of another potential gotcha. When they raise the temperature by 1 or 2 degrees, is that an across the board change, or to a certain level. As in do they say, everyone's temp is going up by 2 degrees or do they say that everyone's temp is going up to 27?

My concern is as such:

  • Person A: 23 -> 25
  • Person B: 25 -> 27
  • Person C: 27 -> 29
  • Person D: 26 -> 28

So my issue would be that if they simply do an across the board raise in temperature then the person who is already being energy conscious is really getting punished. A better algorithm would be to raise all temperatures to 27 or by 2 degrees, whatever is the smaller change. Example:

  • Person A: 23 -> 25
  • Person B: 25 -> 27
  • Person C: 27 -> 27
  • Person D: 26 -> 27

Unfortunately I don't have faith in Hydro Ottawa being that smart. From what I have seen there are still too many unknowns in letting someone else control your utilities.