Transfer Autonomy to the End User
Saturday, September 8, 2007 at 06:28AM
Toby Considine in Re-thinking things, System Architecture

The fundamental problem with most of the “demand limiting” or “load control” programs out there is that they remove autonomy from the end user. We like choice. We like control. We do not like other people to make choices for us. We do not like to cede control to anyone.

All of the energy saving practices that transfer control of our lives to someone else, be it the Power Company or the Government, will have only short-lived support. We want to wash and dry a shirt this afternoon to wear to the party tonight, and we will pay for it. We want to take a long hot soak in the tub this afternoon, either because of a hard day at work, or to ward off an impending cold. We want to be in charge.

Any energy allocation model that ignores these facts about us as a people will fail. It will suffer from non-participation. If regulated, it will be subject to malicious compliance and sabotage. We must build energy allocation models based upon choice.

The micro-circuitry of GridWise allows appliances to identify themselves and report their individual power usage. The appliances must share their capabilities for saving energy with the house. The web services interfaces of oBIX will allow home, office, and third party applications to discover building systems as they do printers. The smart grid will deliver live electricity pricing to the house.

Software agents, working in our behalf, and under our direction, can negotiate power needs with the systems and appliances, and live pricing with the intelligent grid, to most economically meet our desires.

The house must be guided by its inhabitant. You should wash and dry that shirt you want to wear tonight, fully aware of what doing so at the last minute cost you. You should decide whether to follow the economic rules you set up, or to override them to soak in that tub. The decisions of Comfort vs. Economy, of Amenity vs. Cost, should be made explicit.

And the end user must be in charge.

Article originally appeared on New Daedalus (
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