Dominion Beta Testing Smart Meters Here

In a press conference downtown today, Governor Kaine announced that Dominion Virginia Power will be beta testing 46,500 smart power meters in Charlottesville and Albemarle, CBS-19 reports. The devices can communicate with Dominion in real-time, wirelessly, allowing both Dominion and customers to know at any time how much energy that they’re consuming. Not only does that make it easier for customers to conserve, but it will allow demand-based pricing, basically selling all energy via a real-time, automated auction, a sort of a never-ending conversation between our appliances and power stations about how much we need electricity right now and how much we’re willing to pay for it. More details about this are available on Dominion’s blog.

I’m so geeked about this that I will pay to use this service, if I have to. (I’m a big energy grid geek.) Here’s hoping that they’ll partner with Google PowerMeter for that extra touch of awesome.

20 thoughts on “Dominion Beta Testing Smart Meters Here”

  1. I just talked to someone who was there on the Mall, in front of that stage this morning, waiting for Tim Kaine to speak. And she says that Tim Kaine never actually showed up.

    Anybody know what’s going on here? Is she mistaken, or did a bunch of local news outlets jump the gun and write the story based on a press release before the event even happened?

  2. That’s really interesting. I got the (embargoed) media alert last week, which said that Kaine was to be there, but I checked for confirmation that he was there before I actually wrote about it. I’ll be interested to hear from anybody who can confirm or deny his presence. Writing a news article from a week-old media alert isn’t journalism as much as it’s copying and pasting.

  3. I’m excited about a more-intelligent power grid, too, but the geek press is full of accounts of how these power meters are buggy and insecure. The Register (, for example, reports:

    The newfangled meters needed to make the smart grid work are built on buggy software that’s easily hacked, said Mike Davis, a senior security consultant for IOActive. The vast majority of them use no encryption and ask for no authentication before carrying out sensitive functions such as running software updates and severing customers from the power grid. The vulnerabilities, he said, are ripe for abuse.

    “We can switch off hundreds of thousands of homes potentially at the same time”

    In short, you write a worm that exploits an automatic update feature in the meter that runs on peer-to-peer technology that doesn’t use code signing or other measures to make sure the update is authorized.

    So maybe Mr. Jaquith can try it first.

  4. He was there. My boyfriend was there and sent me some pictures from his cell phone.

  5. Hey Waldo since the meters have been installed in some place how can I tell if I already have one?

  6. Dominion has been in the area upgrading meters for the past month. Everyone on Pantops has the upgrade.

  7. We had a smart meter installed at our house (Forest Lakes) about a month ago.

    I’m looking on the Dominion site for the demonstration project that is mentioned on the blog link above, but haven’t had any luck finding it. Anyone else found this?

  8. …it will allow demand-based pricing, basically selling all energy via a real-time, automated auction,…

    Isn’t this essentially how electrical energy producers operate in the wholesale national market? California needs electricity, Nevada has a surplus, so Nevada sends their surplus to California. Since electricity isn’t a storable product and has to be used immediately as it is generated?

    Also think about this… that word -Auction- as in “highest bidder wins.” This sounds like the institution of flexible rate hikes. Aren’t their rate hikes regulated right now? Do you really want them to be able to hike the rate at 3 in the afternoon in the middle of a hot July summer week?

    It certainly makes Dominion a much more profitable company.

    I think I would rather keep the flat rate pricing with regulatory oversite because you know they are going to find a way to use that structure to gouge customers.

  9. I don’t see any reason why auctions can’t take place within regulated confines. If power demands are so high that rolling brownouts are inevitable, it seems best to adjust pricing and let appliances bid to keep a connection. For instance, if my pricing is going to jump to $0.12/kWh because of a spike in demand on a hot August day, my A/C unit might agree to that $0.12, while my lights might be set to shut down at $0.08/kWh during daylight hours, so they’d shut down. So my house is now bidding for less electricity, but at a greater rate, with a net price difference of $0. Of course, if it was important to me that I keep my lights on, then I might tell my lights to bid more.

    The result of this is inevitably going to be decreased power usage and a greater focus on energy conservation among consumers. Ultimately, cost is the best way to do that.

  10. I’m no Luddite, but the idea of having my lights bidding on auctions while I’m not around makes me just a little anxious. The whole thing seems strangely similar to something I read in some conspiracy theorist broadside a few years back.

    Is there a machine nicknamed “the beast” at the center of all of this and will we be required to have tattoos on our foreheads? Just wondering… and kidding, but it must be scaring the bejeebees out of their more paranoid customers, especially those who farm under lights.

  11. “I think I would rather keep the flat rate pricing with regulatory oversite because you know they are going to find a way to use that structure to gouge customers.”

    You got that right. There isn’t a crook nor cranny that big business can’t get to so that the Kingpins can have their holiday home in the Swiss Alps. The whole idea that sensors and software designed, installed, controlled and maintained by Big Brother Biz are going to make it better for the rest of us is pure naiveté. And that’s dangerous in these times.

  12. > conversation between our appliances and power stations

    Am I going to need a Protocol Droid to translate between these power meters and the the binary language of moisture vaporators? Where’s C3PO when you need him?

    Seriously, though, I don’t have any appliances that can converse with a power meter.

    – Jeff

  13. Call me suspicious, but what’s so great about being the first place to have it? Sounds like an experiment to me. And sometimes, experiments don’t go as planned. What’s the downside?

    When I worked for the electric cooperative we used to try and convince folks to let us install load management devices on their water heaters and would essentially allow the co-op to cut the power to customers water heaters on a rotating basis for those participating. The logic being that it saves energy during peak demands and that it was so spaced out that you’d never notice it happening. Yeah, right.

    I will say I like the more accurate digital meter reading. Through the years I’ve found reading errors on the bills more than once. Sometimes they just “guess at it” based on your average usage. What if you were out of town?

    Yeah, I trust Dominion. They’ve got our best interest at heart.

  14. Facts: I was physically there. Governor Kaine was physically there. He and I were there the whole time. I heard his entire speech, as well as everything the other speakers had to say. It was a great event, and I find it odd that a friend of someone who was there “in front of the stage” did not notice or hear Governor Kaine. Senator Warner and Rep. Perriello were not there. They wanted to attend but had other committments. Their statements were read aloud and members of their staffs were present.

  15. anyone know how to read this meter? It has three different screens, on mine this morning one said “384 kwh”the next reported “3r 1777” and the final screen had “888.88.8”

    no readily available info on regarding a consumer reading their own meter…

  16. In response to the post that begins with, “anyone know how to read this meter?”:

    A meter was installed at my home this week (Fry’s Spring). I believe the LEDs read the same as Mr. Emory’s do.

    If one were to guess, one might suppose that such readings represent the initialized state, and from there one might further suppose that Dominion might bring a large number of devices on line, rather than one at a time.

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