Decisions Made Easy

Data makes decisions easier. Let’s look at an example:

  1. We recently got solar panels on our house. We’re producing power and all is good.
  2. The electric company (Xcel) recently made an optional billing rate available called Time-of-Use metering (TOU). Our current flat-rate (tier 1, <500KWh/month) billing is roughly 9¢/KWh. TOU rates charge you differently depending on what time of day it is, since “peak” power costs them more to deliver. Here are the approximate wintertime TOU rates:
    1. 8¢/KWh Off-Peak 21:00-09:00
    2. 10¢/KWh Shoulder 09:00-21:00
    3. 14¢/KWh On-Peak 14:00-18:00 weekdays (non-holidays)
  3. Xcel will credit us into a virtual “solar bank” for electricity at the rate and time we generate it under TOU metering, or a simple KWh solar bank under flat-rate metering.
  4. Which plan would be worth more to us?

A lot of factors go into this calculation. With flat-rate it’s easy, just look at the net meter at the end of the month and see whether it’s positive or negative to find out whether you owe money or built up your “solar bank.” With TOU it’s not so easy. You have to calculate your net usage depending on summer/winter, time of day, and the cost for that time of day.

Fortunately I wrote a program to figure that out. Combined with a home energy meter, SmartThings, and a logging server, I was able to calculate the difference.

We only have data for a few days so far but the results are telling:

2017-11-12 Sun: TOU $-0.48 vs flat-rate $-0.25
2017-11-13 Mon: TOU $-0.71 vs flat-rate $-0.31
2017-11-14 Tue: TOU $-0.31 vs flat-rate $ 0.00
2017-11-15 Wed: TOU $-0.37 vs flat-rate $ 0.11
2017-11-16 Thu: TOU $-0.19 vs flat-rate $ 0.12
On-peak:  $  -1.51
Shoulder: $  -5.19
Off-peak: $   4.65
TOU Sum:  $  -2.05
Flat Sum: $  -0.33

Switching to TOU net metering shows a >6x increase in profitability (given immediate monetization) over the past 5 days.

Now, things could (and will) change. It’s not always sunny in [where I live]. Xcel could (and will) raise its rates in the future which would make the flat-rate KWh bank worth more (…but by >6x)?

Still, the data doesn’t lie. It may be inaccurate — and the home energy meter I used to collect this data does show some drift compared to Xcel’s power meter — but it doesn’t demonstrate bias. Data has no emotional investment or opinions.

Not that Data (sorry).

So… we’ve applied for TOU pricing. Combined with solar generation it’s a no-brainer, although making the decision does require some smarts. Were we not solar producers, the decision might be more difficult.

I’ll have to run that scenario for fun.



Where Will You Land?

As Facebook comes crumbling down and the mass exodus begins, what platform will people move to that doesn’t control them so algorithmically?

I looked at Diaspora a while ago. It’s worth another look. From a technical perspective I like that it’s decentralized and owned by the users. Plus all the users legally own their own data.

It doesn’t need ad revenue to survive, so that’s good.

Also I could run my own server on the network if I wanted to.

Or — hey — there’s always the original social network, ham radio.

Taxing Our Economy

The proposed tax plan is bad on many levels, but one way in which it will directly hurt American jobs, manufacturing, the economy, and the environment is by immediately repealing the EV tax credit (IRS Section 30D) instead of letting it expire of its own accord.

  • Car manufacturers have already planned production with this credit.
  • EVs are the only modern vehicles that can run on coal power.
  • EVs run on 100% domestically-produced fuel (electricity), compared to regular cars that run on imported fuel.
  • Buying new cars is good for the economy, and most EVs have domestic production plants compared to ICE (Internal Combustion Engine) vehicles which are manufactured overseas.
  • EVs don’t produce any local pollution, thereby cleaning up the air (not that the EPA cares about this anymore).
  • EVs help reduce greenhouse gas emissions (not that our government cares about this anymore).

If you’re interested in keeping incentives for one of the last great American-manufactured products, and the associated jobs that go along with making them, please tell your representatives in congress. Here’s how to start:


Why I Don’t The Facebook Much Anymore

Here are some things I have come to believe about Facebook:

  • It is not acting in your best interest.
  • It creates a false sense of community.
  • Its algorithms are actively trying to manipulate you.
  • It is addictive.
  • It is toxic.
  • It promotes tribalism.
  • It appeals to our baser instincts.
  • It does not challenge you.
  • It does not inspire personal growth.
  • It makes a lot of money off of you.
  • It learns from you.
  • Its relationship with you is based on a great imbalance of power.
  • It shows you what it thinks you want to see.
  • It is a closed system.
  • It does not share its data.
  • Its program is designed to keep things inside the “walled garden.”
  • It is constantly watching everything you do with it.
  • Its creators will do whatever it takes to remain in power.
  • It is not accountable.
  • It has no oversight.
  • It has no regulation.
  • It is actively rearranging your neural pathways to become dependent on it.
  • It needs you.
  • It is easily gamed.

The irony is that many of you may have linked to this article from Facebook. Although, knowing my (lack of) activity on it recently, it is difficult to predict how its algorithms will interact to bring viewers and clicks away from itself and onto my blog here.