Issue: June 2009 APPLIANCE Magazine
Prices for Devices
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Tim Somheil, editor
Smart grids have the potential to create significant appliance energy use reductions, but standards have to come first.
The idea is simple enough. Home
appliances that consume a lot of electricity will be equipped to
communicate with utility companies. Utilities will transmit energy
pricing data, which the appliances then use to adjust their energy
consumption based on homeowner settings. Under some circumstances,
utilities may have the ability to control the home appliances
themselves to reduce the overall utility drain.
one aspect of the Smart Grid concept, now getting much attention in the
United States. President Obama regularly addresses the economic and
security risks posed by the nation’s antiquated electricity
infrastructure and made an updating the grid part of his plans for
stimulating the economy. Vice President Joe Biden’s April 16 speech in
Jefferson City, MO, focused on the Department of Energy’s smart grid
plans and outlined how $3.9 billion in American Recovery and
Reinvestment Act funds will be used, mostly in the form of grants, to
stimulate smart grid development.
goals go well beyond smarter home energy use, but the home is naturally
where consumers, and appliance OEMs, are focused.
systems that come into being will need to provide good reasons for
consumers to participate. In fact, the DOE’s Advanced Metering
Infrastructure (AMI) concept seems to put little control in the hands
of the utility companies. Instead, it will incentivize consumers to
participate through “Prices to Devices” techniques.
systems assume that energy will be priced based on its near-real-time
cost (a tactic DOE calls imperative to the smart grid approach). Price
information is communicated to consumers’ home controller or directly
to the biggest energy users in the home—HVAC equipment and major
appliances. Homeowners will already have input their preferred
settings, so each appliance will know how to adjust its power use.
These adjustments happen automatically and consistently, providing
substantial energy savings. It essentially gives the homeowner a much
higher level of control of utility bills.
The Industry Is On Board
Many entities in the appliance industry are
eager to be a part of the U.S. smart grid solution. GE Consumer &
Industrial is poised to launch smart appliances with energy-management
capabilities and the ability to get a signal from the local utility.
May 21, GE Consumer & Industrial presented a progress report on its
pilot program with Louisville Gas & Electric Co. (LG&E). The
program let consumers test out the use of smart meters, smart or demand
response appliances, and a tiered pricing program to help offset energy
costs when higher prices are implemented during peak usage times.
believe with our Demand Response appliances, GE will help consumers
significantly decrease power usage during peak demand periods. That
will help the utilities reduce the need for more power generation and
help consumers save on their energy bills,” said Kevin Nolan, vice
president of technology for GE Consumer & Industrial. GE doesn’t
appear to be waiting for federal standards to be put in place. It is
already looking for more utilities to partner with.
Corp. plans to make all of its electronically controlled appliances
capable of receiving and responding to signals from smart grids—if an
open, global standard is developed. Whirlpool made this announcement at
the EE Global Forum and Exhibition in Paris in April. Bracken Darrell,
president of Whirlpool Europe, said its ability to successfully deliver
on the commitment was dependent on the development of an open, global
standard for transmitting signals to and receiving signals from a home
appliance, as well as on appropriate policies that reward consumers,
manufacturers, and utilities for using new peak demand reduction
The challenge of implementing a
single standard is a big one. It makes no sense for industry players to
gamble their resources on a system with competing standards, where one
of those standards has the potential for being obsoleted.
standard may be in sight in the United States, however, through the
National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) Smart Grid
Interoperability Project. NIST is charged by Congress to develop a
Smart Grid Interoperability Standards Roadmap. An interim roadmap is
scheduled for release this month, June 2009.