Dominion to Test Conservation Technology

At last! Dominion Virginia Power is moving ahead with a pilot program for one of the potentially most effective electricity-conservation strategies available. The power company will test demand-response technology in 2,000 homes in Richmond, Hampton Roads and Northern Virginia this summer, deploying small, programmable communicating thermostats (PCTs) and intelligent load-control switches in approximately 2,000 homes.

In theory, the demand-response solution will allow utilities to respond to rising peak loads by reducing energy usage at critical times. The load management system will send a communication signal to the demand-response devices installed at the home to cycle air conditioners. Additionally, the program allows participating residents to program and control the temperature setting of their home thermostats using the Internet.

Dominion hasn’t released details of the initiative, but Comverge, Inc., developer of the technology, has. (Read the Comverge press release.) You, the readers of the Bacon’s Rebellion blog, find out first because your editor is all seeing, all knowing!

By curtailing peak power demands, the demand-response system potentially could save Dominion Virginia Power hundreds of millions of dollars, maybe billions of dollars, in avoided costs. The key to making it work is making it worth the while of electric consumers to endure reductions to their power supply when they need it most. Will DVP offer them a rate cut? Details to come.

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  1. Anonymous Avatar

    This is a positive development. As I posted earlier, I have a friend who is an executive at PEPCO, He’s told me that PEPCO’s investments, operating costs and rates could be lower if it did need to meet power demands for the few hottest weeks in July and August.


  2. Anonymous Avatar

    “The key to making it work is making it worth the while of electric consumers to endure reductions to their power supply when they need it most.”

    In other words the benefits have to justify the costs. Furthermore, the benefits and costs need to go to the same people proportionately.

    Otherwise, since benefits and costs are property, someone is getting taken.

    This is probably a good idea overall, but that doesn’t mean that the benefits can’t be hijacked. Call me suspicious.

    If this turns out to mean that we pay a lower price for air conditioning in December, it may not be a bargain at any price.


  3. Groveton Avatar

    Here you go RH –

    From 1 kWh per day to .1kWh per day. And all because cold air sinks.

  4. Anonymous Avatar

    We have used chest type fridge/icebox on boats for years. if I fill mine with frozen food and fifty lbs of ice it will last for two weeks before I start getting spoilage. With Eutectics, you can go even longer.

    One thing you learn on the boat is that a lot of stuff doesn’t need refrigeration. You can keep eggs for a month if you coat the shells so air doesn’t get in. Some people use vaseline, some parafin, and some use varnish.

    I gotta say though that working upside down through a chest is a pain in the butt, especially if the contents have been jumping up and down in a seaway for a few days. It might be better if you have a big one like this and have the shelves arranged neatly.

    Our farm freezer, where we put homegrown stuff, is a chest type, and it lives inthe cellar where it is cool anyway. It always seeems like what you want is on the bottom.

    On the farm, we go through gallons of cold drinks. To avoid opening the main fridge, I use a separate smaller one just for drinks and keep it outside on the porch. I’m not sure that is an energy saver, but it might be if the house was air conditioned.

    The problem with this and so many articles of its type is that it considers only the efficiency of the fridge. he doesn’t count anything for the aggravation involved in this kind of fridge. You have to wonder, if it costs only $5 to run this thing for a year, then what is the justificataion for spending a few grand on his solar and wind system? He could put a little generator on a stationary bike and ride that twice a day for ten minutes.

    But, I really liked that four sided hay quonset in the website banner. That made sense to me.


  5. charlie Avatar

    what are the barriers to smart metering? I can imagine there are a lot of upfront costs,but the long terms benefits seem worth it.

  6. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    One of the impressive aha moments for those inclined towards observation is to stand at the take-out of the Grand Canyon on day 14 of the 200+ mile raft trip and the gear is unloaded and staged.. watch the coolers get dumped .. with chunks of ice on the shores…

    these are very large coolers that take 4 people to load 14 days prior on day 1.

    they are preloaded on day 1 with block ice with the items packed in reverse order of their use and separated by card board.

    The temperatures in the canyon can be 100+ but the coolers sit in slings with their bottoms resting near the bottom of the raft and their white tops covered with cushions.

    In the morning.. when it is cool, you go and extract that days food and transfer it to a separate cooler for that day.

    The coolers themselves are rated as 5 day coolers – you can see them in the stores – you have to look on the label for the 5-day rating.

    then of course, I still remember a long time ago… my granddad and others chopping ice out of the pond and hauling it to a building with a big hole lined with straw rather than a “floor”.

    … ah yes… the “convenience” of ice cool drinks at one’s fingertips…

    oh.. almost forgot.. the cool drinks on the Grand don’t come from the cooler.. they come from putting your cans in a net bag and dragging them behind the rafts…

  7. Anonymous Avatar

    Yep, Larry’s right.

    Packed right and managed it will keep a long time.

    We still have the ice house on the farm, but we no longer get ice in the pond, most winters…..

    Times change.

    We used to cool the watermelons the same way, dragging them behind the boat. In those days, some people had a name for that.

    Times change.


    The way I read it there are four technologies for transferring th esmart meeter data. Each one has difficulties.

    -You can send the data on the electric wires, but you have to work around the transformers with repeaters somehow.

    -You can send the data via telephone or internet, but not everyone has service.

    -You can send via wireless, but that doesn’t have full coverage, and there is interference.

    Maybe they have that figured out by now, or maybe they just ignore people like me and use the old dumb service.


  8. Larry Gross Avatar
    Larry Gross

    Here’s an interesting approach:

    Basically a company that installs and maintains Solar and then charges a monthly fee.

    They only do it where net metering allows selling power to the back to the electric company.

    I’m a little suspicious of it but the underlying concept is intriguing.

    It’s essentially like a separate electric utility offering electricity generated from solar rather than coal or nukes.

    If this company would get the same favorable tax and regulatory treatment that more conventional electric utilities got – would it only be a question of time before solar technology improved to the point where this approach would secure a competitive niche in the marketplace?

    I see the electric utilities as newspapers who were scratching their heads trying to understand the Internet while it was already morphing into the competitive equivalent of flesh-eating bacteria for ad revenue.

    Will the utilities like Dominion take a forward looking investment strategy or will they seek to protect their core business until the solar competitors start to eat away at them?

    You say that big powerful companies don’t do dumb stuff like this?

    Look at Microsoft. They bet the barn on PC-centric software rather than web-based software and now.. thought still a mighty organization clearly see the handwriting on the business-model wall.

    So. is this company Citizenrē REnU basically a loan company selling expensive solar or are they part of an eventual bow wave of electric utility competitors?

  9. Anonymous Avatar

    “Basically a company that installs and maintains Solar and then charges a monthly fee.”

    Yup, this is the way it will work. distributed power network will need distributed service. Financing may be part of the service. You can do this all yourself, and be your own separae utility, but…. we all have other lives to live.

    All the running around will detract from some of the efficiencies of distributed generation.

    The power companies will eventually take this over through a franchise model.

    “would it only be a question of time before solar technology improved to the point where this approach would secure a competitive niche in the marketplace?”

    Solar technology will improve, and so will manufacturing techniques, which is where the real savings will come from. But the bottom line is that there is a certain amount of elementary physics here that cannot be improved.

    There is also the matter of backup and peak power. Solar competitors will have to be true competitors before they eat much of the power companies. I don’t think this is quite the same as the internet and newspapers.

    A newspaper or internet service are both about a buck a day, but the internet offers much more. To invest in solar is a much biiger project, and in the end, all you have is electricity, sometimes.


  10. floodguy Avatar

    “… and in the end, all you have is electricity, sometimes.”

    Is your sometimes a cloudy cool day when peak demand is the greatest?

  11. Anonymous Avatar


    Don’t understand your question.

    If you invest in PV solar, a cluody day is when you will generate the least.

    After last weeks storms, I had to switch to my own generator for four days. It burned enough fuel to pay for my electric bill for a month, and it has no pollution control equipment, plus it is noisy.

    It seems to me that personal solar is a bad bet, but it will pay eventually. Personal backup for the solar is a much worse bet. Better to share the risk and expense, even if it means burning some coal. I think.


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