02 May 2013

National Grid to shut down home appliances

Viktor Sundberg


A ‘Big Brother’ style scheme is set to come into force that would automatically shut-down home appliances.


According to reports, the National Grid is demanding that new appliances, including fridge freezers, electric ovens, washing machines and air conditioning units, are fitted with electronic sensors that could shut them down temporarily when the UK’s generators fail to meet supply.


The proposal comes after the EU said 20 per cent of all UK electricity should be generated by green sources by 2012. As these can be less reliable than traditional forms, the ‘shut-down’ function could be used, ‘as a last resort’, to prevent potential blackouts.


Drawn up by the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity (ENTSO-E), the proposal has been agreed by energy regulators across Europe and has been sent for approval by the European Commission. If approved by the European Parliament, the proposal would become legislation, forcing manufacturers to install the devices


ENTSO-E insists that balancing electricity demand is vital for ensuring security of supply and has an important bearing on costs to customers. A report on its website states: “The potential for balancing resources to be effectively shared between member states can enhance security of supply and reduce cost, hence there is a strong rationale for developing cross border balancing markets. The network code on Electricity Balancing will ensure that the correct framework will be put in place for this to happen.”


However, critics have hit out at energy companies, who could potentially make millions from the scheme as they would not have power up reserve generators or pay factories to switch off furnaces to ease demand, and Consumer groups have expressed ‘serious concern’ in a letter to ENTSO-E.


Vice president for environmental affairs at Electrolux Household Appliances Europe, Viktor Sundberg warned that consumers would have to pay more for their appliances under the new proposals and that there would be no way of offering the consumer compensation if an appliance was turned off automatically and without their consent.


“The issue with the National Grid proposal is appliances would use a passive device, with no communication. It would only listen to the frequency of the grid, but not linking that in any way to the consumers’ electricity bill.


“What we’re saying is that if the consumer is informed and has the economic incentive to do something good, then the individual consumer will make the right choices to save energy.”


Sundberg was also keen to stress the difference between the National Grid’s proposal and smart appliances/meters.


“Smart appliances and smart meters would require a two way communication between both so that the consumer can read the meter, read information about the state of the appliance and remotely control it.


“The consumer could also know how much electricity is used within a certain tariff. Unfortunately, all of this isn’t part of the National Grid’s proposal. This is the problem.”

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