First, They Came For the Thermostats
The California Energy Commission is introducing radio-controlled, "programmable communicating thermostats" (PCT) that can adjust temperatures in people's houses to manage electricity shortages, and the conspiracy theorists are agog, claiming Big Brother is invading and taking away civil liberties, saying "While nowhere in the Bill of Rights is there explicitly a right to set one's own thermostat to whatever temperature one desires (and is able to pay for), the new PCT requirement certainly seems to violate the "a man's home is his castle" common law dictum." and "Soon there will be thermostat police, then light bulb police."
According to the New York Times, The Commission says otherwise. ""You realize there are times — very rarely, once every few years — when you would be subject to a rotating outage and everything would crash including your computer and traffic lights, and you don't want to do that," said Arthur H. Rosenfeld, a member of the energy commission.
Reducing individual customers' electrical use — if necessary, involuntarily — could avoid that, Dr. Rosenfeld said. "If you can control rotating outages by letting everyone in the state share the pain," he said, "there's a lot less pain to go around."
Felicity Barringer of the Times notes: The fact that similar radio-controlled technologies have been used on a voluntary basis in irrigation systems on farm fields and golf courses and in limited programs for buildings on Long Island is seldom mentioned in Internet postings that make liberal use of references of George Orwell's dystopian novel "1984" and "Big Brother," the omnipresent voice of Orwell's police state.
Ralph Cavanagh, an energy expert with the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in an interview that at a time of peak electricity use, "most people given a choice of two degrees of temperature setback and 14th-century living would happily embrace this capacity." ::New York Times