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CenterPoint Energy Selects GE for Smart Grid Advanced Metering System for Houston, TX

CenterPoint Energy, Inc.’s electric transmission and distribution subsidiary has selected GE Digital Energy as its provider of wireless communications to support the electric utility’s Advanced Metering System (AMS). The AMS is designed to give Houston-area electric consumers the ability to better monitor and manage electric use and cost in near real-time—a first step toward developing and deploying a full smart grid.

In March 2009, CenterPoint Energy began replacing existing electric meters with smart meters. More than 145,000 smart meters will be installed across the Houston area by the end of 2009. The AMS will be deployed during the next five years to more than 2.4 million consumers within a 5,000 square mile service area around metropolitan Houston.

The MDS Mercury in its pole mounting. Click to enlarge.

GE Digital Energy’s MDS Mercury 3650 radios along with engineering services, network design, project management, and support services, will support the transmission of electric utility meter data over the AMS network from consumers’ homes and businesses to CenterPoint Energy’s data center.

The MDS Mercury is a highly secure, industrial-grade WiMAX platform. Operating at 3.65 GHz, the Mercury 3650 can be optimized for throughput (up to 9 Mbps aggregate) or for range (up to 14 miles). The MDS Mercury is certified to operate in extreme temperature ranges, from -40 °C to +70 °C.

Once the AMS, including the communications infrastructure, is installed, retail electric providers (REPs) will be able to offer new products and services to their consumers, such as giving consumers the ability to monitor their energy usage and energy prices in real time from computer screens in their homes. Consumers could know how much electricity their appliances are using as well as what electricity rates they are paying at any given time. Additionally, consumers could be able to remotely control their appliances via the Internet.



"Consumers could know how much electricity their appliances are using as well as what electricity rates they are paying at any given time. Additionally, consumers could be able to remotely control their appliances via the Internet."

How exactly does this really benefit consumers, community or global energy independence? You can know in real time how much you're being charged for electric - BFD. IF there were competitive vendors then this info would help consumers select a vendor. Since utils are still following the outdated model of single point monopoly grid supply - it means nothing.

And come on, you can go on the internet to turn on/off your what? Coffee pot? TV that came on by itself? These are frivolous distractions from the real concern of ancient utils - Residential Power Units. Which ARE coming and WILL offload up to one third grid demand.

RPUs utilizing combined heat power designs will begin to replace residential grid connects in the next five years. There are several new technologies that will bring this to market at a reasonable cost. The benefit is lower grid energy demand, decrease need to build new power plants, greater energy security, jobs, community energy distribution, jobs and... did I mention, JOBS???

Will S

"How exactly does this really benefit consumers, community or global energy independence? "

A fair question. A smart grid like this works best with a dynamic rate structure; briefly, when wholesale power costs rise (i.e., nuke or coal plant has an unscheduled shutdown, wind farm has little wind, natural gas prices spike, a terrorist attack on a high voltage powerline, etc, etc), then an upward adjustment in retail price occurs. Consumers can choose to consume power at their usual level at that time, or opt to run the laundry/dishwasher at another time, turn off unused lights, change the A/C setting from 75F to 77F, decide not to watch a TV program at that time, change the settings on the hot water heater to 115F instead of 130F, etc, etc. Some upcoming smart appliances will be able to be preset to automatically track changing prices and invoke consumer-configured presets.


* Self-healing from power disturbance events
* Enabling active participation by consumers in demand response
* Operating resiliently against physical and cyber attack
* Providing power quality for 21st century needs
* Accommodating all generation and storage options
* Enabling new products, services, and markets
* Optimizing assets and operating efficiently

Also see, The Smart Grid: An Introduction


Of course none of these "fixes" would be necessary if the overall demand on grid was reduced by the adoption of Residential Power Units. BUT as this would cut in on the present and future monopolies of utility companies - and they will flail about wildly to avoid having to share revenues and control with consumers themselves - we will get Will S's logic.

That logic says, we refuse to allow independent energy production via RPU because it takes away potentially one third of our revenue base. Further, single point electric production is a gateway control mechanism on the population. Should ordinary, little people be given the key to produce their own extremely low cost energy - we would lose our power base.

This is of course wrong. The key word that the grid managers are afraid of is SHARING. They do not want to share a piece of their monopoly on electric production. However, if they were truly interested in helping the planet, lowering grid energy consumption, and providing energy independence tosoverign nations - they would embrace the idea of offloading residnetial drain on grid to RPUs.

Look folks, it's hardly rocket science. A single point dominated grid structure is an open electro-mechanical target for cyber/physical attack, subject to resource fluctuation (eg wind), a huge generation, distribution, and maintenance expense (increasing need for new plants, nuke, coal, wind, etc). The boondoggle that is a creeping "smart grid" will make the oil debacle look tame.

Let's get really smart. Let's set a goal to offload residential homes and multi-unit dwellings to RPUs over the next twenty years. The resultant savings in huge systems costs will be well worth the investment in R&D. Breaking the next energy monopoly before it careens out of control is worth more. And IF there are people seriously concerned with national security (listen up DOD) then an expansion of independent energy generating sources is crucial. There is no single better way to assure a nation's resilience to attack than to grow energy independence at the residential level.

WE have the technical know-how. And if it is not adopted at the Administration level - it will be at the grass-roots. There is ubiquitous energy available to the population. It will be made transparent. Get on board or get out of the way.

Will S

I already generate electricity at my house with a 2kW PV array in a net-metering arrangement (though I can go offgrid at a flick of a switch). I assume the RPUs you refer to are typically natural gas or propane based. What savings in huge systems costs are you referring to? Note that these would be dependent on their own infrastructure (such as NG pipeline).

The Smart Grid concept includes the RPUs that you are talking about, assuming that RPUs are not 100% of generation. One good point about RPUs is the capture of waste heat during the generation process to be used as space heating (and water preheating) during heating system. There are many times we use little or no energy in this house, so I'm curious to see how efficient these units are under very light loads (or idling).

One issue with high levels of RPUs is the use of a non-renewable energy source that will eventually peak and decline in production, even unconventional (conventional NG has already peaked in the US). So we have to be careful about jumping from the frying pan into the fire.

From your tone, you seem to be quite an advocate of RPUs; do you have any vested interest in RPUs?


Will S,

not sure what you mean about RPUs not being 100% of generation. But I assume you are referring to the early commercial CHP systems not having capacity to generate the 10kWh-20kWh necessary for most single family homes. You are right also about the NG becoming a liability as it is ultimately non-renewable.

Two approaches to these problems: one is to fill NG piplines with methane captured from landfills and or solid waste processing FT type facilities. Another is to develop low temp (H2) electrolysis utilizing something like the Dan Nocera MIT catalyst from Phosphate and Co2+ http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/321/5892/1072

The other is to utilize entirely new sources of heat or apparent excess heat from processes like Randy Mills' catalyst: http://www.blacklightpower.com/process.shtml or LENR.

One way or another there are actually many options for building RPUs. It does, however, fly in the face of big utilities and their imaginings for grid control. Therefor the impediment to creating a stable, renewable energy portfolio that incorporates RPUs (limited to residences due to capacity ceiling)is political. But if there is to be a real green shift in energy usage it must start with limiting grid demand. Sure it comes from tweaking lifestyle habits - but that's cosmetic compared to micro-generation from RPUs.

The task today is to introduce these technologies in as least disruptive ways as possible. By hybridizing the RPU with the current grid we lower single point demand, strengthen security, limit new plant construction, help environment, grow jobs, etc. The only entity that faces take aways - is utilities. That's called sharing.


sulleny, you've been riding your anti-utility hobby-horse too long without ever truly addressing the problems.  Your hand-waving dismissals of the problem of fuel supply for RPUs will not stand the test of reality.  Some of your reasoning is even circular:  you are going to create electricity from fuel made from electricity?  The sign "SANITY ENDS HERE" is somewhere behind you now.

The objection to this proposal should be the use of WiMax.  The current crop of Smart Grid hardware is horribly insecure against hacking, and the use of standard wireless protocols just makes it more vulnerable.  Creating an efficient grid does us no good if it opens us to attack by the Chinese at their convenience; somebody needs to hit these idiots over the head and inform them that SECURITY is an integral part of "energy security".


100% generation clearly refers to the national grid.
If you were only discussing off grid that's another matter, but as the subject is grid , smart grid and pricing, I would expect that the key to utilising grid surplus is the price factor.
Although one day the differential may erode somewhat, if we want uptake of off peak power, then pricing is the answer.
Grid modernisation will include RPU and renew ables equally and increasing the management and will increase the utilization , the reliability on both sides of the grid. RPU's will not operate at max efficiency until the mix of power and heat is fully utilised when we need that heat at night but the power has to find a use, the smart grid finds a market outside the remote users area.
When we dont want to start the rpu to run a light globe then we borrow from the grid.

Conspiracy theorists should try to understand the subject before going off on tangents.
Although after Enron's grid extortion practices, one could be forgiven for thinking that everything operates against community interests.
Remember that was a personnel management issue rather than infrastructure problem.
Even if we improve the infrastructure,we will always have people.

Will S

My comment on 100% generation referred to a hypothetical situation where RPUs would have replaced all centralized generation.

I do see the potential efficiencies of CCHP, especially with absorptive cooling in warmer climate zones. I'd like to see more real world data (and not just the cream of the crop) that shows the efficiencies without CCHP (during months of no heating or cooling) along with those with (both partial and full HVAC load). Clearly, we can't simply use the best possible efficiency figures and extrapolate them over a year.

There seems to be a clear opportunity to load balance between RPUs, as very light loads, idling, and the situations arnold mentioned are considerations.

The fuel situation is still an issue, and the generation of hydrogen using phosphorus has additional issues. A trade study between the use of batteries, flywheels, and H2 (including the delivery infrastructure) would help to clarify some of these issues.

It's also not clear how fast these units respond to high loads, such as a well pump activation, etc.


I just want meters that can be read from the central office using power line networking and a breaker box interface so that the homeowner can monitor power usage.



You know I'll not fall for the "sanity" ad hom.

"Your hand-waving dismissals of the problem of fuel supply for RPUs will not stand the test of reality. Some of your reasoning is even circular: you are going to create electricity from fuel made from electricity?"

Firstly, fuel will not be an issue near term as there is an adequate supply of NG in N. America and the first 500k+ RPU installations will use this fuel to shake out CHP efficiencies. And methane captured from landfill, sewage treatment and FT waste plants is a reasonable supplement capable of scaling at the municipal level.

Secondly, the circular criticism is not true if the MIT solution is applied as envisioned. i.e. relatively low wattage PV sources the electricity for H2 reaction. Third, the excess heat verified in Mills' Ni catalyst reaction, appears to obviate any real concern for fuels. It is excess heat.

The impediments are not technical - they are political. Thus my hobby horse on utils. Why build an energy future around an outdated central resource model? We've already seen what happens when energy monopolies run amok. The arguments for distributed energy capability are largely unassailable.

RE: WiMax security - 256 bit encryption solves concern.

As to both Will and arnold's load factor concerns - certainly just as a PV installation is not expected to supply 100% of a residential load - these RPUs initially would not.

The challenge is to start the installation process - bring the local power companies into the process by giving them contracts for RPU installation and maintenance (even manufacture if necessary). A few of these 10-20kWh demo units should help debug the hardware and shake out the business model for utilities.



"From your tone, you seem to be quite an advocate of RPUs; do you have any vested interest in RPUs?"

No. Only in as much as they are IMO a necessary part of meeting the goals of energy independence. I am open to investment in RPU solutions going forward.

Will S

"Firstly, fuel will not be an issue near term as there is an adequate supply of NG in N. America "

If we are referring the US, then conventional sources have be declining, and though unconventional shows some promise, it's unclear how much can be extracted economically. If you are referring to Canada, then energy independence is an issue, besides the drop in pressure in the Western fields, and the high rate of consumption in the tar sands. And municipal waste, landfill, and FT are nice to use, but some realistic analysis would need to be performed to show that they could provide a dent in 10s of millions of homes.

WiMAX end-to-end PKM-AES security is fairly robust, but nothing is perfect. WiMAX is not necessary, if there is an existing household internet connection.

Reliance on the MIT solution focuses hopes on early R&D; subsequent technology transfer that realizes commercial viability is a long way down the road.


Quoth sulleny:

Firstly, fuel will not be an issue near term as there is an adequate supply of NG in N. America
Let's see if you still say that 2 years from now.  Gas drilling activity is falling like a rock.  The cost of unconventional natural gas is about $8/mmBTU, and will probably require prices to spike well over $10/mmBTU to get the rigs out again; serious shortages are likely on a cyclic basis, as the economic contractions caused by price spikes will collapse demand again.
methane captured from landfill, sewage treatment and FT waste plants is a reasonable supplement capable of scaling at the municipal level.
IIRC, most sewage-treatment plants consume their entire output to run their operations.  Now, let's see you post FIGURES on the methane-production potential of landfills on a per-capita basis and tell us just how much utility electricity this could replace via your RPU's.  In other words, back up your claims.
Secondly, the circular criticism is not true if the MIT solution is applied as envisioned. i.e. relatively low wattage PV sources the electricity for H2 reaction.
So it is your proposal that:
  • roughly half a terawatt of utility-generated power will be replaced by
  • much lower-efficiency RPUs operating on
  • fuel created by electrochemical processes driven by
  • "relatively low-wattage sources"
It's obvious that you haven't the competence to evaluate the merits of ideas, because this one utterly fails the sanity test.  As do you.


A lot of the up and down in natural gas production has to do with unstable prices, but it also has to do with smaller finds that last a shorter duration. If we are going to have good stocks of methane, we may need to have a price floor so that we can start making it with biomas.


@ EP: (poet without rhyme)

Conservative estimate of potential NG resources in the United States alone(Trillion Cubic Feet):
Total Traditional 1154.809  
Coalbed Methane 166.141  
Total United States 1320.950Tcf
Source: Potential Gas Committee - Potential Supply of Natural Gas in the United States, 2007

EIA Annual Energy Outlook 2004, estimates that natural gas demand in the United States could reach 31.41 Tcf by the year 2025 where it begins to decrease.

"It is predicted that natural gas prices for electric generation utilities may increase faster than for residential and commercial consumers - which may drive retail electricity prices higher, and serve to make natural gas (particularly for distributed generation) more desirable for residential consumers."

Gosh EP, I bet some greedy drilling outfit will happily meet this demand.

Let's now look at central utility v CHP on a fuel-use- efficiency basis:

Ooops. Looks like the CHP solution wins hands down! (BTW, in case you forgot, CHP/CCHP is a big green energy solution - your skepticism could revoke your membership in Sierra Club)

As to Dan Nocera's green approved idea to split water - you apparently have forgotten his "breakthrough:"

And whatever you do - don't mention Randy Mills!

Further on your ad hom addiction:

"There are three forms of belittlement: contempt, spite and insult. ... Insult is belittlement. For an insult consists of doing or saying such things as involve shame for the victim, not for some advantage to oneself other than these have been done but for the fun of it."

--Aristotle, Rhetoric

Might we suggest your attendance at an ad hom rehab facility? Your disease is nothing to be ashamed of.

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