Recently by Roger Toutant: A New Doomsday Clock
The legal principle that a man can enter upon another man’s property only by invitation has been part of English common law for centuries. In 1628, Sir Edward Coke wrote, “For a man’s house is his castle and each man’s home is his safest refuge.” That used to be the case before the state walked right through our front doors in the name of tax collection, environmental protection, building code and bylaw enforcement, etc. Now, thanks to the smart grid, our safest refuge is about to be invaded by the folks who supply our electrical energy. In fact, they’re going to sit right next to us on our sofas and they’re going to insist on taking over the remote control.
The propaganda about the smart grid leads us to believe that the grid must become smart otherwise we will be left in the dark and without power. By accepting the smart grid, smart meters and smart-grid compatible appliances, the big thinkers claim that we will be doing our part in ensuring a bright and happy future for us and our families. Plus, they promise that the smart grid will offer us cheaper rates during off-peak hours via the miracle of time-of-day billing. They make it sound like a positive step forward.
However, the reality is much more sinister. Beneath the propaganda is a technological monitoring and control system that will reach deep into our homes. It will not only monitor our energy consumption to the minutest detail, but it will offer the ability for central planners to remotely control our appliances and energy consuming devices by either turning them down or completely off.
Why would central planners want to monitor and control our appliances? The first answer is that we are an increasingly technological society that promotes central planning. The smart grid is simply part of the unnatural progression to an all-encompassing control matrix. The second answer is that some very powerful central planners, namely the UN and many national leaders, have entirely succumbed to the green lobby and believe that mankind is using way too much energy. These self-appointed protectors of the earth insist that we must be forced to consume less. Of course, without a commensurate increase in energy efficiency, less energy consumption means a decrease in our standard of living. Hardest hit will be the poor and middle class. But the big thinkers never talk about that.
How can total energy consumption be decreased without causing revolution? The planners’ preferred method is to force an increase in the cost of energy. Remember the politician who promised that the price of coal-generated energy will necessarily skyrocket due to the cost of new environmental regulations? If you’ve seen wind farms and solar panels popping-up in your neighborhood, then you’re witness to another strategy of increasing energy cost: replace coal, natural gas and nuclear with renewable energy sources, namely wind and solar.
Wind and solar satisfies the green lobby’s criteria for carbon emissions, but they fail big-time when it comes to cost. For example, solar is ten times more expensive then traditional sources. By funneling billions of tax dollars into these hyper-expensive forms of energy production, governments are ensuring that the price of energy will definitely not be cheaper even during off-peak hours. Will the coming massive increase in the price of power reduce demand? You bet it will. Will it avoid revolution? We’ll see.
In addition to higher prices, another big drawback of wind and solar compared to traditional sources, such as coal, is that their energy production profiles are not as predictable. When the clouds move in, the seasons change or the wind dies down, then these renewable energy sources do not produce as much power. Today, if power demand is close to exceeding capacity, then customers are asked to reduce their power consumption voluntarily. When worse comes to worse, rolling blackouts can be triggered. However, people hate blackouts because all power is removed. Not only are T.V.’s turned-off, but so are refrigerators.
The greater the role that wind and solar play in energy production, the more destabilized the grid will become. This is where the smart grid comes in. Once the smart grid reaches into smart grid-enabled appliances in our homes (and they are now being rolled-out into the marketplace), then it will be possible for the central planners to selectively turn-down our energy consuming devices. For example, an air conditioner or dishwasher could be disabled, but a refrigerator could be left running (possibly at a warmer temperature). Such actions will be required when renewable sources are unable to meet customer demand.
In the future, it is certain that the selective turning-down of appliances and devices will not be voluntary. The argument will be made that it is the central planners who know best what to do. After all, we simpletons do not know how many watts our toasters consume, nor how much power our hot water heaters draw. However, the guy turning them off will know. When the grid enters chronic criticality, then everyone will be called upon to do their part by submitting to the imposed energy controls. And no consumer will be capable of mounting a legal or moral defense to justify any other course of action because arguments for freedom and privacy will not be relevant in the technological decision making process.
But it will not be just our toasters and hot water heaters that will be monitored by the folks at the other end of the wires. The two-way communication capability of the smart grid will enable central planners to record every detail of how and when we use energy. Imagine for a moment how personal that information is. Our patterns of energy consumption largely define how we live our lives. For example, it will be possible to record how many times we use a toaster each day and how many loads of laundry we do every week or every day. And this information will, undoubtedly, be made available not only to our energy providers and state-sanctioned regulators, but also to organizations and third parties who successfully lobby for such access in the name of the public good. Having access to this type of information is a central planner’s dream come true.
With this type of information, any degree of inspection and control of our private lives will be possible. For example, it is possible to imagine a scenario where the number of loads of laundry permitted per week will be tightly regulated. Perhaps we will need to obtain a permit to do an extra load. Or, perhaps a mayor like Bloomberg will insist on limiting the number of pieces of bread that can be toasted per day in order to ensure optimum health.
Some people might claim that such scenarios are absurd because they seem so far-fetched. However, only a few decades ago, the idea that we would need a government permit to perform construction on the inside of our homes would have been deemed equally absurd. The trend in our loss of freedoms and privacy indicates that the controls that will be imposed upon us will be limited only by the technocrats’ imaginations.
It is unfortunate that the government has turned a wonderful market, the production of energy, into something so dysfunctional and potentially tyrannical. In a normal, functioning market, suppliers would compete to offer all the power we need at the cheapest price. They would not care about how we use our energy. But the government has long treated energy production like it has treated most other sectors of the economy: like a political football. As a consequence, our standard of living is set to suffer a marked decline. Ironically, the smart grid will be hailed as the solution to the chaos created by the state’s interventionist and destructive actions.
As the technocrats celebrate the end days of individual freedom and personal privacy, our last refuge is set to be invaded by the prying eyes and hands of big brother. In the future, the term "private life" will be thought of as an anachronism. No longer will our homes be our castles, nor our safest refuges. There will be no escape from the smart grid — the control grid. The central planners are moving in.
Roger Toutant [send him mail] has practiced electrical engineering in private industry for more than 20 years and is currently licensed in Ontario.