Saturday, November 15, 2014

Hackers delete $670B of unpaid Turkish electricity bills

With the amount of connectivity that our modern electricity systems have, it is a wonder that something like this hasn't happened before.

This will be very costly for the utility to clean up and reconcile, given that meters will have to be read all over again, and in some cases for long outstanding accounts where people have moved, the utility may take a loss.  It is almost certain that in the end, the electricity customer will pay for the utility's lack of oversight into making sure the data was secure and backed up.  For $670 billion worth of data, how much needs to be spent in securing it?

Monday, June 18, 2012

Are door knocker contracts worthwhile? NO!

Here's an update on the latest status of fixed rate contracts.  The Global Adjustment wasn't as high in the last 30 days as back in April or May as from my previous post.  Now, based on my own consumption patterns, I would have to find a fixed rate contract of 2.3 cents or less to make it worth my while.  A quick look at indicates the best rate available to me is 3.24 cents per kWh.

Remember, ask those door knockers about the Global Adjustment and watch them get aggressive with you!  Also ask yourself, what worthwhile good-value product or service can only be bought door-to-door?  Vacuums?  I can't think of any, either.  Let me know if you do in the comments below.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Here is why the Ontario electricity market is totally screwed up

HydroOne provides a comparison tool within the customer web portal, so you can see how a third-party retail contract for electricity would compare to buying your electricity from the incumbent utility.  In this example, for my home during the period of April 7 to May 6, I would have to find a contract that offered a price less than 0.34 cents per kWh.  Clarification: that is $0.0034/kWh! 

Look at the Global Adjustment, it is absolutely out of control and ridiculous.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Take Control of your Computer Energy Consumption

Have you ever wondered how effective your PC's power management settings really are?  Neuber Software has a neat freeware tool called PCTime that helps you determine just that.  It analyzes the Windows event log to show you a visual representation of not just a cumulative run time, but how long your PC has been on, but also exactly when and for how long each time.

I used this to determine that the laptop was never going into sleep mode by itself, which is a problem because laptops aren't designed to run 24/7.  Which it was.    The cooling fan and heatsink assembly has already been replaced once under warranty, which is long expired.  And the failure of it probably means the end of the laptop since it's six years old and those specialized parts impossible to source.

I also used it to check our home media server, which it sometimes on for hours at a time, which is expected when it is serving files or doing backups of the other PCs in the house.  But it also appears to be turning on dozens and dozens of times per day, only for a minute or two.  Even when there's nobody home or everyone is asleep!  One day it ran 24 hours straight, which is puzzling.  I've got some troubleshooting to do to solve these problems and thus give my ever-climbing hydro bill a break.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Ontario's Power Mix - Graphed!

Check out this site from the Canadian Nuclear Society where they take the hourly data published by the IESO and create dynamic graphs to show you what generation sources are currently being used in Ontario to generate electricity.

The graphs are broken down by generation type (nuclear, hydro, coal, gas, wind, etc) and also by power plant, and in some cases, the generator within a particular power plant.

What's interesting to note is how this dynamically changes over time, and the ultimate effect that it has on electricity prices.

Inside the IESO, with Steve Paikin of TVO

Join Steve Paikin of TVO as he goes inside the operations centre of the IESO, the provincial agency responsible for operating the electricity grid and market.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

TOU Data Returns

For the first time in over two months, I'm seeing some new TOU data posted to the HydroOne web portal. But not all of the missing data is there. There's no data at all for the time period of Dec 17 to Jan 10, and nothing after Jan 18 yet. There's no way of knowing whether this data will eventually be available, or if the data loss is permanent.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Hydro bills you at off-peak rate if TOU data missing

I got my first bill since TOU data stopped being available on the Hydro One web portal. My smart meter is still not sending data out. Hydro has confirmed that this is not an isolated problem in my area. Might be related to the recent roll-out of wireless internet in my area, perhaps on the same frequency that the smart meters out. I understand that the meter is only supposed to hold 30 days of data, so if it hasn't been downloaded, it's likely gone forever.

So, if you have a smart meter, and the meter data is ever not available for some reason, Hydro will estimate your bill since they can't read it remotely, and they don't have meter reading staff anymore. And they bill the entire missing data period at the off-peak rate.

I don't have the opportunity to enter my own meter readings anymore, since smart meters were supposed to make that obsolete. So I will have to start reading my own meter again to make sure I'm not being ripped off. Note the bill above does not mention any beginning and ending meter readings for the billing period, which is technically a Measurement Canada requirement.

Monday, January 2, 2012

The case of the missing hydro meter data

For some unknown reason, time-of-use data is not available for my meter since December 17.

It will be interesting to see how my bill is estimated when it comes in.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Power Vented Hot Water Tank Electricity

Ever wonder how much electricity your power vented hot water tank consumes? My natural gas fired power vented hot water tank consumed 4.77 kWh over 756 hours, as measured with a Kill-A-Watt meter. This works out to about 0.15 kWh per day. This is a small price to pay for the increased efficiency that the power vent technology brings to the table.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Links to various news stories

I don't have time to review and comment on them all, but here are some links to relevant news stories from Uncle Tim. Thanks, Tim!

Energy costs biggest hurdle for former minister Smitherman's Ring of Fire bid - The biggest hurdle former Ontario energy minister George Smitherman will face trying to secure a Ring of Fire ore processor for the northern town of Greenstone are his own energy policies, critics say.

Ontario's Power Trip - The end of FIT

Ontario's Power Trip - The Failure of the Green Energy Act

Ontario's Power Trip - Today's Forecast: higher power prices

The Gas is Greener - one thing I will say about natural gas based power generation in Ontario, is that Ontario only produces 2% of the natural gas it now consumes, and natural gas consumption for electricity generation is forecast to be at least 25% of current provincial demand! Enjoy sending money for natural gas resources outside the province forever.

Energy Diet Challenge

Shell and Canadian Geographic Magazine are holding a contest called the Energy Diet Challenge. The premise behind this contest is to pit six different families against each other and see which entrant can reduce their energy use the most. And not only household energy, but also transportation energy. Good thing one can still ride bicycles in Canada during September!

The entry period has already closed, and the contest starts in September 2011.

Do you think your family could reduce its energy usage significantly?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Ontario Clean Energy Benefit is hurting us

Ontario's Environment Commissioner Gord Miller says in his Annual Energy Conservation Progress Report - 2010 (Volume One): Managing a Complex Energy System, "The 10 per cent rebate on electricity bills is an artificial subsidy on the price of electricity so it encourages consumers to use more." A study by energy analysts estimated that the OCEB could wipe out a third of the planned conservation savings over the next four years.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

PC Power Management

So I have power management installed on my home PC, set to go into sleep mode if I haven't used the computer in a while. But what if I don't want it to go into sleep mode? For example, I'm downloading a bunch of large files that make take hours, or doing a backup over the network which can take all night. I could manually adjust the power settings on my computer to deactivate sleep mode, but I can guarantee you that I'll forget to reactivate it again.

There is a free software solution that I found, called Coffee. This is funny because I don't even drink coffee, but it does work for me. Coffee keeps a computer from going into power saving mode if there is network activity over a user-defined rate. So as long as the downloads keep going, so will the computer. When downloads are finished, then the computer will be, too.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Hydro One's Retail Contract Tool

Unlike the Hydro Ottawa portal's contract comparison tool, Hydro One's adds the cost of the Global Adjustment to the graph. The correct amount of Global Adjustment is automatically chosen for you, so all you have to do is input the contract rate from the third party electricity provider. In this case, I would have to find a retail contract for 2.84 cents per kWh to break even with the time-of-use rate equivalent.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

A Tour of Hydro Ottawa's TOU Portal

Hydro Ottawa is slowly and finally starting to roll out TOU to its customers now, and here is a sneak peek at what their Internet portal looks like. (Click on the images for a larger view).
In the upper right corner of each data page, are buttons to print, or download the displayed data in Excel or PDF formats. This allows the customer to store long term data or run other analysis.

The home page shows some quick overview graphs, including the last recorded day's usage.

The hourly page shows an hour-by-hour view of electricity usage, color coded to match the off, mid, and on-peak periods. The high contrast option, turns all the graphs into an unpleasant black and white scheme, which must be an accessibility function.

The daily graph shows a summary of each day's electricity consumption, along with user selectable total daily cost or consumption.

Much like the daily graph, the monthly graph shows each calendar month's total data.

The billing period graph shows a breakdown of usage for the period covered by any of your previous bills. You can compare one month to the other using the drop down boxes above the graph.

The TOU calculator is interesting, as it allows the customer to use the mouse and pull the three bars up and down to play "what-if" scenarios, then shows the results on the right hand side.

The tiered-vs-TOU page allows you to see what you would pay under the old regulated price plan, vs. Time-of-Use, vs. any arbitrary third party contract. This customer, as an example, is paying slightly more under TOU than the old regulated price plan. If an option becomes available in the future for customers to opt in or out of TOU rates, this page is a valuable tool to determine which is the better deal.

The blue bar showing the value of a third party contract entered at 8.0 cents/kWh does NOT include the Global Adjustment, which is currently running 4.3 cents/kWh!

Here's what happens when the central A/C fires up.

We had the A/C programmed to start in the late afternoon, since nobody was home during the day, and then programmed to shut off at 8pm. Setpoint was 25C and the outdoor temperature was in the 30's with a high humidex.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Got the TOU letter

Our home is being transitioned to time of use rates on June 10. Just in time for the summer.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Server Energy Consumption

So I have been blessed with a new computer, which begs the question, what to do with the old one? It's a decade-old Pentium 4 1.6A desktop on an Asus P4B266 motherboard that doesn't owe me anything, and is probably worth even less than that on I have wanted a home server for some time, mainly to do backup duties, for which I had been using an external drive to date. It worked fine, but it was getting a bit small and it only worked when I dragged it out of the closet. With almost 20GB of family photos among other things, we don't want to lose any of them. I set the old computer in the basement next to the freezer, connected only a power and Ethernet cable to it, and used Windows XP Remote Desktop to access it from the comfort of my desk.

Of course, the idea of a server is to have it run 24/7, but that also means paying for the resulting electricity bill. So I took that old computer and plugged in to my Kill-A-Watt meter - 96 Watts at idle! The cost to run that is about $142 a year, which is more than we pay for a whole month of electricity now. That kind of utility bill increase isn't acceptable to me, so I thought about how to reduce energy consumption. I decided to pull all of the expansion cards and disconnect power to the optical drives that I wouldn't really need with the computer in its new role. I got the power consumption down to 65 Watts.

Pretty good, but could I do better? I wondered if it would boot without a video card. The video card I had was a victim of capacitor plague. While the card's lifetime warranty was useless as the manufacturer went belly up, and although it still worked without any apparent ill affects, I didn't want to keep using it in a production environment. So I pulled the card out, and it still booted right up! Now the power consumption dropped to 46W.

Next, I set the hard disk to spin down after 20 minutes of idle. Now the idle power draw dropped to 36W.

Next I managed to get this server to go into the S3 sleep state during longer periods of inactivity, for example while we are away from home or asleep or just not using another computer on the network. That brings it down to 3W. This page offers comprehensive instructions on how to set this up, using Windows XP anyway.

Oh, in case you're wondering, the new computer, an Intel Core i5-2500, draws 52W at idle. That's quite a power saving right there over my old computer drawing 96W, especially considering it has exponentially more processing power.