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Will You Let The Power Company Control Your Air Conditioner?

In the news today we find that Tucson Electric Power Company (TEP) is instituting a voluntary program (so far) that would allow TEP to control your air conditioner during periods of peak use. In this scheme, participants “will receive a new thermostat or upgrades to their current one and accompanying equipment to monitor and adjust their home’s temperature remotely” over the internet. “In exchange, participants will give the electric company authority to adjust the temperature of their home by up to 4 degrees.” During the trial period, customers will be notified in advance and have the option to override the remote manipulation.

This is part of Renewable Energy Standards (RES) mandated by the Arizona Corporation Commission in 2006. That standard requires electric utilities to generate at least 15% of electricity from “renewable resources” by 2025. RES also requires a growing percentage of the total resource portfolio to come from distributed generation, i.e., residential or non-utility owned installations. The distributed energy requirement started at 5% of the total portfolio in 2007 and grew to 30% of the total renewable mix after this year.

The TEP program is part of a scheme called Demand Side Management and the so-called “smart grid,” another mandate by the Arizona Corporation Commission. A similar program is being instituted by Arizona Public Service in Phoenix. “Arizona’s public utilities will be required to achieve annual energy savings of at least 22%, measured in kWh, by 2020, with the savings to increase incrementally as a percent of retail energy sales in each prior calendar year to reach that goal.”

“Energy savings” mean rationing electricity. And given that the air conditioners will be controlled over the internet, the system is vulnerable to attack by hackers who could wreak havoc with air conditioning systems in large buildings or in participating neighborhoods.

If you stay in the program through September, 2012, TEP is offering a $50 bribe for your participation in the brave new world.

And follow the money: Fannie Mae, the biggest U.S. mortgage finance company, holds Patent No. 6,904,336, for a “System and Method for Residential Emissions Trading,” which is the meter that would be attached to your house. Bloomberg reports this is a potential $22 billion dollar market. Maybe that’s why governments are creating a market to sell you something you don’t need.

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