In spite of falling gas prices, energy is still a hot button topic in this election season, and General Electric has some new ideas about how to approach the issue. In a press release on Wednesday, GE announced a growing partnership with energy utilities and new line of appliances which will work in tandem to lower peak energy demand and save you, the consumer, money on your energy bills. These “Energy Management Enabled” appliances will receive control messages sent from the utility companies, which let them know when peak energy periods (and prices) have passed, allowing the hardware to schedule key tasks around cheaper kilowatt-hours. Now that we have this month’s quota for the word “energy” out of the way… While ‘smartening’ initiatives like ENERGY STAR® don’t garner much press, they’ve permeated much of the appliance market, landing in everything from water heaters to monitors to refrigerators. In spite of this, there is plenty of room for improvement: GE is looking to break in on this opening; traditional appliances have no way of determining when to perform tasks like self-cleaning or defrost and compression cycles, and so they happen periodically throughout the day. Ultimately, this means that many appliances draw energy at inopportune times.
Instead, these GE appliances are programmed to discourage using energy during peak times, which comes as a command signal through the power lines (much as the way broadband over power lines would have worked). The consumer can override this scheme, but, if need be, a dryer could be programmed to not use higher temperatures until peak energy usage has passed. Currently, only few utility companies have tiered pricing, but as initiatives such as the “Energy Management” system gains ground, more and more are considering cheaper energy prices outside the range of 3 P.M. to 7 P.M, or when energy demand is at its peak.
In order for this program to fully realize its potential, GE would require the cooperation of most utility companies. In anticipation of this, GE has already secured the support of Louisville Gas and Electric for when the new line is released in Q1 2009, and are looking to expand the partnership to more companies as 2009 approaches.
Picture courtesy of: General Electric