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Big Brother to control thermostats in homes?
Posted By Chelsea Schilling On 01/11/2008 @ 1:00 am In Front Page | Comments Disabled
Add thermostats to the list of private property the government would like to regulate as the state of California looks to require that residents install remotely monitored temperature controls in their homes next year.
The government is seeking to limit rolling blackouts and free up electric and natural gas resources by mandating that every new heating and cooling system include a “non-removable” FM receiver. The thermostat is also capable of controlling other appliances in the house, such as electric water heaters, refrigerators, pool pumps, computers and lights in response to signals from utility companies. If contractors and residents refuse to comply with the mandate, their building permits will be denied.
The proposal, set to be considered by the commission Jan. 30, requires each thermostat to be equipped with a radio communication device to send “price signals” and automatically adjust temperature up or down 4 degrees for cooling and heating, as California’s public and private utility organizations deem necessary.
Claudia Chandler, assistant executive director for the California Energy Commission, told WND the new systems would be highly beneficial to residents.
“From the Energy Commission’s perspective, all we’re doing is ensuring that this new technology is included in new homes instead of the older programmable technology,” she said.
The Programmable Communication Thermostat, or PCT, will allow power authorities to control home temperatures while denying consumers ability to override settings during “emergency events.” Nowhere in the proposal does it clarify what type of situation would qualify as an “emergency,” but Chandler offered her own explanation: “An emergency is when the utilities need to implement rolling blackouts and drop load in order to be able to meet their supplies because the integrity of the grid is being jeopardized.”
She claims residents will be able to manually override controls in all cases, but the 2008 Building Efficiency Standards (Page 64), known as Title 24, specifically states: “The PCT shall not allow customer changes to thermostat settings during emergency events.”
Michael Shames, executive director of California’s Utility Consumers’ Action Network, told WND he believes the idea of a chip consumers are unable to override is not feasible. While he considers the technology to be a positive development, he said denying consumers control over their own appliances is a highly problematic concept.
“The implications of this language are far-reaching and Orwellian,” he said. “For the government and utility company to say, ‘We’re going to control the devices in your house, and you have no choice in that matter,’ that’s where the line is drawn. That sentence must be removed.”
Additionally, no provisional exceptions for people with health conditions worsened by excessive temperatures are mentioned in the current proposal; however, the Energy Commission spokeswoman said existing supply problems are more worrisome to Californians with health issues than the projected solution.
“I actually was more concerned in the 2001 electricity crisis that folks on critical medical devices like respirators, kidney dialysis machines and things like that were going through rolling blackouts,” Chandler said. “That’s a very challenging thing to face. Moving somebody’s temperature up by a few degrees really seems mild by comparison.”
Jim Gunshinan, managing editor of Home Energy, based in Berkeley, Calif., told WND the changes would also provide consumers with an option to control thermostats via the Internet.
“That means someone can turn on the air conditioning before they leave work for home and have the house comfortable when they walk in the door. Or if they forgot before leaving home for a ski trip, they can remotely lower the thermostat at home and save money.”
Gunshinan claims the new system is needed because it will be more beneficial to the environment than building new energy facilities for the state.
“Since utilities have old, inefficient and dirty power plants on reserve to use during peak demand hours, dropping demand will mean less use of these dirty power plants and less pollution.”
Some critics say California authorities will be incapable of enforcing compliance if homeowners and renters bootleg heating and cooling systems from other states, block radio reception with inexpensive FM transmitters or simply install window air conditioning units and space heaters, a bypass method that could use more energy than traditional units.
Concerned California residents expressed outrage with the proposal in several online postings:
“I hate this state. Why don’t we just fly a communist flag while we are at it? We are planning a move out of state. I’m done.”
“This is insane. Please, everyone reading this, take action. Write your representatives, call the RINO governor, call your local radio programs and, lastly, write letters to the editors of your local papers. Dear God, just when I thought California couldn’t get much worse!”
Other opponents of the state proposal expressed concern that its mandatory nature is a sign of increasing “Big Brother” government control.
The California Energy Commission invites public comment until the proposed adoption date, Jan. 30. Written responses must indicate “Docket No. 07-BTSD-1.” Members of the California Energy Commission are appointed by the governor. Concerned individuals can also contact California state legislators.
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Chelsea Schilling is assistant commentary editor of WorldNetDaily.
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