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I like in Quebec and use baseboard electricity heaters. A few years ago Hydro Quebec were willing to pay a significant portion of the cost to me of installing an air to air heat pump, that would kick in automatically if the temperature were within a certain range. Air to air heat pumps are normally very efficient but not if the air temperature gets too low, so you need to switch to oil or gas or something. It didn't work for me, because I don't have ductwork. I could have installed a wood stove as backup for very cold days, but that was no good because it wasn't automatic, they said.

Why in hell can't they give me a smart meter! Raise the price to me when electricity is most scarce, cut it when it's least scarce, and let *me* figure out how best I want to conserve electricity at those times when the price is high. Wood-stove, sweaters, whatever. It would be much cheaper all round. The engineers that built James Bay ought to be able to figure out smart meters!

Sorry for the rant. But I'm glad to see someone pushing this. How many people understand that smart meters are about substitution effects and downward-sloping demand curves, and the welfare triangle gains from varying the price when the demand or MC curves shift?

Absolutely agreed! I still can't figure out why BC is installing smart meters but *not* implementing time-of-day or other conservation pricing.

In BC we do have one type on conservation pricing, Mike. If your usage is over a certain level you pay more on all electricity over that level. This means that households like mine with 5 adults pay more for electricity than household with 1 or 2 adults, although having lots of people in one home is clearly more energy efficient. What I would like to see is more smart appliances, ones that would regulate their energy use without me having to unplug them.

Rachel: Whoops - you're right. I should have mentioned that. We have the same in Ontario. Thanks for the post!

As a card-carrying GPC member, I was mortified when I saw May's tweets yesterday. I wish I could say I was surprised.

Here's an econ research question for you: Why, why, why must there be this ridiculous overlap of people with a good, sound, *science-based* position on climate change and positively nutty positions on EMR, alternative medicine and the like??

Jeff: *Great* question. My wife asked me the same question yesterday. I really wish I knew.

"Why, why, why must there be this ridiculous overlap of people with a good, sound, *science-based* position on climate change and positively nutty positions on EMR, alternative medicine and the like??"

Is it because very few of them have a good science education? The Green Party climate change position might be scientifically 'correct' but what percent of members understand the science? Most likely, it's a question of Big Oil = bad, and Big Pharma = bad. The postmodernist philosophy that has taken control of our education system has devalued facts and elevated unfounded opinion; this is a consequence.


I've been having lots of debates with people here in Ontario about TOU pricing. So many people insist that (1) higher rates, and (2) varying rates throughout the day would do nothing to modify behaviour. It's like arguing with people who assert that the world is flat. I don't even really know what to say to them.

These EMR scaremongers (and they're after HV power lines as well, even though more are generally needed to funnel renewable power from the hinterland into cities) are entirely willing to deny reason and evidence in order to cling to their fervently held beliefs.

I've been having lots of debates with people here in Ontario about TOU pricing. So many people insist that (1) higher rates, and (2) varying rates throughout the day would do nothing to modify behaviour. It's like arguing with people who assert that the world is flat. I don't even really know what to say to them.

These EMR scaremongers (and they're after HV power lines as well, even though more are generally needed to funnel renewable power from the hinterland into cities) are entirely willing to deny reason and evidence in order to cling to their fervently held beliefs.

As an ex-GPC member who was very closely associated with volunteers and the political organization itself, let me shine a little like on your questions...

1. Why is the GPC commenting on BC provincial matters? Well, the membership on a whole (there are some exceptions) really doesn't understand what policies are of the federal domain and which are of the provincial domain. I've been to too many policy conventions where policy resolutions were introduced AND passed that had nothing to do with the jurisdiction of that party. Secondly, BC is now the epicenter of all Green politics in Canada and Ms. May will comment on anything if it gets her media especially if its local to her riding regardless if has anything to do with her mandate as a federal representative.

2. Why the contradiction in use of science as backing for policy decisions.... simple, they don't believe in science as a field of study. If science says climate change is happening, then science is good. If science says things like wifi are safe, then its evil corporations controlling research. The environmental movement is as guilty as the "non-environmental" movement of selectively picking and choosing what science they back their rhetoric with.

Also:

Ontario PC leader Tim Hudak really doesn't like what he calls Premier Dalton McGuinty's "mandatory smart meter tax machines."

So, if he gets elected come Oct. 6, the meters will follow McGuinty out the door. http://www.thesudburystar.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?e=3088826

I see why you're signalling out the Green party for criticism, although personally I do sometimes wonder about the health impacts of the approximately 8 wi-fi networks I can pick up just sitting in my backroom.

That's a good point RE the PCPO. Didn't mention them, because I'm not surprised when they pick a policy position that differs from the Environmental Defense Fund.

Rachel - "This means that households like mine with 5 adults pay more for electricity than household with 1 or 2 adults, although having lots of people in one home is clearly more energy efficient."

This is such a good point.

But the rising block pricing used in Ontario and, I assume, BC is only a rate increase on the power used after the limit for the lower rate. It does not retroactively apply to the power below the "limit".

It is still possible and likely that per person the cost is lower and shared uses lower the overall consumption which already rewards having more people in the same home.

Oh my. What a bunch of total nonsense. This was put to rest years ago:

http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs304/en/index.html

Nick is right. There is absolutely no reason why we couldn't have real time display of the instantaneous consumption, the instantaneous rate, and cumulative consumption in the current billing cycle (in $, and kWh). Every house could easily have a little LCD mounted on the wall displaying that info. Same for natural gas, come to think of it. As well as a display of use and price history. In fact, they could settle-up at the end of every day by debiting your bank account for the days consumption. If we all had to pay-up every day, I bet that'd change habits in a big way.

OT (sorta): driving habits make a big difference in how much fuel is consumed. I bet people would drive much less aggressively if there was a real time display of the value of gas burned beside the gas gauge on the dash. All modern cars know the instantaneous consumption. You just need to know the price. The pump could tell the car (via wifi! gasp!) the price and volume when you fill-up and it would be easy to calculate and display.



Uh oh, Patrick. Why would you bring cars into this?? I fear you have awoken Nick's Luddite alter-ego who doesn't want some fancy-schmancy car telling him how hard he should be stepping on the gas while cornering on a 4% incline. Fancy-schmancy is for houses *not* cars. And definitely not MX6's. OK?

(Just kidding, Nick :-)

That said, it's a good idea. As far as the KWh metering goes, I worried a lot about this at one point and put in a dual gas/heat pump system. It now turns out, though, that gas is so cheap that the heat pump can't compete. This would true by a wide margin even for those who are paying Quebec rates of $.07/KWh. So that's it. If they won't give me the right price signals (carbon tax/variable intra-day electric rates), screw 'em! I'm burning gas.

Frances: The EM energy from your local FM radio station far outstrips anything you get from WiFi, even accounting for attenuation. An FM radio station is on the order of 100 kW. A really powerful WiFi antenna is less than .2 watts. Your laptop WiFi transmitter is something like .03 watts. If you think of a human as big bag of water, WiFi is just not powerful enough to have any ionizing effect at all. And BTW, cell phones are much more powerful than WiFi - as much as 2 W (which makes sense, since a cell phone's transmitter has to make it to the nearest tower, which might be a long distance away).

Speaking of cars that tell you how much gas you are using - just drive a Prius. Real time consumption meters. Plus it gives you guidance as to how to drive more conservatively so as to keep the gas consumption down.

Not a surprise that car companies aren't putting them in though. They tried this in the 70s and few people wanted them. Companies don't want them either. My father in law got rid of his SUV in part because of the painfully high numbers it hit while accelerating on the highway!!

I have a Mazda 3. It tells me my instantaneous and average fuel consumption. It is, alas, not a very fuel efficient car given its size. The instantaneous consumption monitor definitely modifies my driving style.

"Why, why, why must there be this ridiculous overlap of people with a good, sound, *science-based* position on climate change and positively nutty positions on EMR, alternative medicine and the like??"

It's because they are actually agenda pushing science deniers. They only believe people who agree with their agenda, not the science itself.

It's my understanding that variable rates in BC are planned for the future. I suspect it's a political decision by BC Hydro to make the changeover uncontroversial. Don't want 'too much too soon' changes, even if it is wise to do so.

@ Jeff, richard, Traciatim, Mark T:

I have some sympathy for the GPC, but they aren't science based. They support the science on their headline issue, but only because it backs their conspiratorial economic agenda. Most climate-change politics is tainted this way, which is partly what makes it so hard for a rational person to side with environmentalists on climate policy.

On the other hand, with this wackiness (and more to come, I'm sure), we should congratulate them on now being a mainstream political party.

"The postmodernist philosophy that has taken control of our education system has devalued facts and elevated unfounded opinion; this is a consequence."

The fun thing about postmodernity is that you can get angry at it but it doesn't go away. Claw at the walls in terror and rage and everything will still be contingent and discursively constructed. Be warned: Start with facts, end with camps.

Andrew: which is precisely why you should swap the Mazda 3 for an MX6! Whoops!

More seriously, but on the same general idea, I remember my uncle saying once that he preferred living in an apartment where the heat and hot water was "free". He knew it wasn't really free, of course, and that the rent was higher. But he just didn't want to have to think about using heat and hot water. Paradoxical, of course.

People who live near hydro corridors might welcome the reduction on EMF from high voltage power lines that more efficient use might bring.

I just wish the TTC would deal with the interference their streetcar overhead cause to AM reception (but only in some spots, oddly).

Great post, but note that, in the fifth last paragraph, it should read "Fewer visits by BC Hydro crews..." not "Less."

Carry on!

Ugh.. I can't believe I made that mistake! Stephen Gordon will have my legs broke.

Speaking of which, I really like the Wikipedia page on the less vs. fewer debate: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fewer_vs._less

I explained it this way for one of my more mathematical-minded francophone colleagues: If it's a countable set, use 'fewer'. If it's continuous, use 'less'. It was the first time it was put in a way he could understand.

Yep. It's the rule of thumb I use too. I just completely goofed.

"Anyone in BC want to inform us why they are not doing this? I'm stumped."

Well, it's all hydro power, so I doubt the time of day people use power matters that much really to B.C. Hydro - it's not like B.C. has a big fixed capacity generating load (nuclear, coal plants, etc.) that has to run all night like most places do. I'm sure there's still a benefit from shaping the load (more peak-time power sales to Alberta and the U.S.), but it's probably not the same magnitude of benefit you would get in most jurisdictions. Plus lobbycanada above is probably right that it makes sense to take it slow, from a political standpoint (the last thing we want is another HST-referendum type deal on our hands - not really off-topic if the post topic is stupid positions taken by left-wing parties).

It's sort of the same reason B.C. doesn't bother much with feed-in-tariffs - why displace hydroelectric power with some less efficient source of renewable energy?

People who live near hydro corridors might welcome the reduction on EMF from high voltage power lines that more efficient use might bring.

I just wish the TTC would deal with the interference their streetcar overhead cause to AM reception (but only in some spots, oddly).

Oooh, ooh, I'll take that one. The Toronto streetcar system is direct current. It's also isolated into separate blocks. So most of the time as the streetcar travels down the road, there is no electromagnetic signal generated because there is no wave.

However, when the streetcar crosses an electrical block, there is a temporary discontinuity. This discontinuity exactly like a switch being opened. You can characterize it as a square wave.

According to the Fourier Theorem, which Electrical Engineers find hawt, a square wave consists of an infinite number of discrete frequency sine waves (a curvy wave). So when a streetcar transits an eletrical block, of which there are only a certain number at certain locations, you get an accidental AM waveset generated which causes interference.

Intersections are a good spot to look for such interference because a dc streetcar setup requires that each direction of the intersection be isolated from the others. Having dc lines of opposite polarity connect is just plain wrong.

In fact the grand union (4-way track intersection) at King and Spadina is a good place to check as there is a lot of traffic with lots of electrical discontinuities.

This informative post has been brought to you by my waylaid Engineering education. Would you economists kindly get us back to prosperity so I can get back to work?

In inter-professional lurve,

Determinant.

Richard
The post-modernist eduction system,of which I am but ahumble cog, tries very hard to inculcate the scientific method.
However I was today informed by my daily paper ( 150K circulation) that a law and the constitution are the same thing, and Determinant will once again bang his head as he will lern that that kilowatt and kilowatt-hour are the same and that airplane contrails are caused by fumes from engines....And these are things on which I have an informed opinion...
Mike T: In tha last federal election , the NDPer who ran against Gilles Duceppe talked about the lack of public transportation, a definite municipal and provincial matter. Anyway, 19 buses and 3 of the 4 metro lines go through the riding.
Not wanting to sound elitist ( so I will be), most people remind me of what the Duke of Wellington said to chief of staff when he received the list of his officer for the 1812 Spanish campaign:"I hope the ennemy will be as afraid as I am."

"More seriously, but on the same general idea, I remember my uncle saying once that he preferred living in an apartment where the heat and hot water was "free". He knew it wasn't really free, of course, and that the rent was higher. But he just didn't want to have to think about using heat and hot water. Paradoxical, of course."

Maybe it's just my personality or my slight environmentalist bent, but even though I have utilities included in my rent, I go to some effort to conserve hot water and electricity. I still bought CFLs.

Determinant: "Having dc lines of opposite polarity connect is just plain wrong."

I accidentally tested that statement once, with jumper cables. You are right.

What about electric blankets? They are AC, and there's a lot of current very close to the body. How does the EMF compare to other things people are so worried about? (Genuine question.)

Nick: There was a very good article about that today in the Ottawa Citizen:

You have nothing to fear from Wi-Fi.

Thanks Mike. Good article.

Newton and Langrange were more my thing, but my vague memory of Maxwell and Faraday is that an electric blanket would produce a small magnetic field due to self-inductance in the heating wires. It would be weak though because the wires are low impedance and the current is low frequency. Most of the energy is just dissipated as heat.

Oops - that should be high impedance.

Patrick is right about an electric blanket. There is a wee bit of self-inductance, but the circuit is continuous and mostly unswitched, so anything coming off it is centred around 60Hz. But there is so much centred around 60 Hz from wires that are so much bigger that it is negligible.

The thing with streetcars is that you have a large amount of current flowing through the system at a large enough voltage and the steel trolley pole with a conducting wire forms a rudimentary but very large inductor/antenna.

It's just like the antenna on the kit radio I have except it's more primitive and much, much larger.

Jacques:

Just when I'm sick of watch the US Congress taking the US and world economy out behind the barn and shooting them with a rifle, you tell me that lovely gem.

I don't expect intelligence from newspapers. It's like the undergrad Engineering sport of watching movies and seeing how many laws of physics are being broken.

"The post-modernist eduction system,...., tries very hard to inculcate the scientific method."

But not nearly hard enough. In fact, not at all. We need a massive purge; I say we close down all the Arts Faculties, and get rid of all the Sociology, PolySci and Economics Depts. Maybe keep a few historians around. Little of value would be lost. At the very least that would free up resources to hire more engineers and scientists - you know, the people who actually create useful things.

Richard, for someone who admires engineering, you sure don't like building bridges.

MarkT: "Why the contradiction in (the Green Party's) use of science as backing for policy decisions.... simple, they don't believe in science as a field of study."

The environmental writer George Monbiot, who recently changed his mind and became pro-nuclear (in spite of Fukushima), made exactly this point.

"We emphasise, when debating climate change, the importance of the scientific consensus, and reliance on solid, peer-reviewed studies. As soon as we start discussing the dangers of low-level radiation (note: he is speaking of ionizing radiation from nuclear reactors but could just as well be speaking of non-ionizing frequecies like wifi aka radio), we abandon that and endorse the pseudo-scientific gibberish of a motley collection of cranks and quacks, who appear to have begun with the assumption that it must be killing thousands of people every year, and retrofitted the evidence to match it. "

Monbiot's blog is well worth a read BTW.
http://www.monbiot.com/2011/03/31/seven-double-standards/

"you sure don't like building bridges"

A bridge in the right place is useful. One in the wrong place, not so much. The postmodernists need purging, not outreach.

Amusingly, May blogged to defend herself, but the Green Party members who chose to comment in response are almost unanimously horrified by the dumb science and dumb political optics.

http://greenparty.ca/blogs/7/2011-07-28/twitter-fire-storm-and-why-i-said-what-i-said-about-wi-fi

Richard, postmodernity is like the passing of time. It will persist without regard to your opinion on it. Silence every graduate student, shutter every academic department and burn every copy of every offending book - everything will still be contingent.

Dterminant: the first two gems came from the ,oh yes, economic and finance correspondant.The third, incomplete as it ignored wingtips vortices, from the ( rim shot) science guy...
I contacted the editor who told me that only ,I quote, "Pathetic frustrated monday-morning quarterback with no way of organising their vacations" could worry about whether electricity is sold by the kilowatt or kilowatt-hour.

Bridging with engineering, I remember about 35 years ago Fourier transforms being used to decompose dummy variable into their components and reversely combining chronological series into discrete dummies. I never followed ,since in econometrics, my interest stopped ar trying to understand why beta hat is a better indicator than delta tuque.

As for micro-wave: 60Hz is very near a resonant frequency of the nervous system electrical current. Looking for damages from ionising radiation is absurd. You should look to disturbance in nervous signsls.

The Russians are deeply afraid of microwave. Legend had it, in my physicist youth, that they had tried very weird experiments re armaments in the 50's and swore never to touch the thing again.FWITW

"Why, why, why must there be this ridiculous overlap of people with a good, sound, *science-based* position on climate change and positively nutty positions on EMR, alternative medicine and the like??"

I don't think we have to make malicious villains of such people, though they are indeed annoying. It's a simple fallacy of composition. People have limited time to collect and check information, and must construct theories to make sense of the world. If they have good reason to assume that big business is knowingly poisoning people in one case, it is easy to assume that this is just what big business does. If DDT was bad for the environment, then all pesticides must be bad for the environment. And so on.

"If you think of a human as big bag of water" -- says it all really. That is pretty much how a human has been modelled in re EMF "safety" research. If you can read Motorola whistleblower Kane's book e.g.(online, '01) and not revise your opinions about RF safety...see http://www.scribd.com/doc/21783803/Cellular-Telephone-Russian-Roulette .

Where else to start to go after so much wrongful commenting here! One commenter does "sometimes wonder about the health impacts" -- no need to wonder. Human abuse of the EM spectrum is well-documented for a very long time as deleterious to biological beings. Want to look into the literature, unfiltered by industry-connected panels etc who shunt from your view & fair assessment the dissenting sci.? I'll gladly refer you to very much indeed.

To start with, you have to get over the simple-minded focus on power levels. Dangers related to "resonance", "peaks", "windows", temporally cumulative effects, etc are well attested in the literature. No fully satisfactory "mechanism" to describe the variegated harm? So it makes sense to deny the harm, as is effectively done by your regulators??

I also left off close dealing with the Green Party of Canada -- but in part because they were unlikely to prioritize this, what many who have become knowledgeable estimate as a more urgent priority than addressing climate disruption. After all, what use a population of addled brains & cancer-ridden.

Wake up & inform yourselves! Harm from xenobiotic radiation can occur at diminishingly low power levels, leads to a broad symptomology (see eg best recent study, where a dose-response relationship is implied, http://www.scribd.com/doc/38565331/Specific-Health-Symptoms-and-Cell-Phone-Radiation-in-Selbitz-Bavaria-Germany-—-Evidence-of-a-Dose-Response-Relationship ), leads to cancers (best recent study, corroborative of much prior study of course ignored by "Health" Canada et al, http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0048969711005754 )... I'll try to stop here, sorry I did not find your blogsite earlier, I hope my comments can still engender thoughtful response & argument; but let me mention two last things ELiz. May referred to in support that none of the disgruntled or unfairly critical follow up on. She should deepen her grasp of these issues before going further with it this fall, but is already referring you to the Bioinitiative Report (via http://www.bioinitiative.org/freeaccess/report/index.htm , I suggest start with section 14 to glimpse some of the orthodox-ignored complexity) & the pretty august political advisory body, the recently adopted Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (where Greens lead on this issue, Canada is so laggard, time to catch up) report on the dangers of wireless, http://assembly.coe.int/Documents/WorkingDocs/Doc11/EDOC12608.pdf (she linked to this at her blog).

OK, all for now, but I truly have much to share, incl. re horrendous corruption on topic, historic & ongoing, many references.

I should have commented directly on wireless smart meters. There has been a non-wireless alternative for TOU metering for decades in use. This can be done now. One sample of harm from wireless ones -- I'm in Ontario, dealing with two utilities' dangerous meters -- BC is lucky; someone mentioned Quebec, they are intended soon in a reversal by Hydro Québec -- both of which in myself provoke microwave auditory effect, Frey effect hearing. What about that? Know about that? I (before we had them replaced by Toronto Hydro & Hydro One) could "hear" it fire off at regular intervals. No pain in the brain -- sonic warning instead. This is happening all over...Let's talk, people.

"Study after study has shown that the radio frequencies in smart meters pose no risk to human health."

This statement is not true; see the following:

http://www.scribd.com/doc/59738917/Dr-Johansson-s-letter-re-SmartGrid-Smart-Meter-dangers-to-CPUC-7-9-2011
http://www.scribd.com/doc/52614951/Reasons-to-Say-No-to-Smart-Meters
http://www.smartmeterdangers.org/index.php/position-statements/156-who-iarc-emf-carcinogenic-news

Also, the Environmental Defence Fund's statement that "A recent in-depth review of the scientific literature by the World Health Organization (WHO) concluded that “current evidence does not confirm the existence of any health consequences from exposure to low level electromagnetic fields,” is out of date as the WHO recently reversed its stance on the health effects of RF: http://www.iarc.fr/en/media-centre/pr/2011/pdfs/pr208_E.pdf

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