No TV For You!
No, we’re not going to blather about new, green technologies that consume less energy and more money — not in the sense you’d expect, anyway. While “green” tech is on the rise, it’s obvious that some of the appliances we use at home will inevitably consume a lot of electricity — air conditioners, for example. So to cut your electricity bill, and to save the environment, you must use your stuff judiciously. Which is tough, because the energy meters that calculate your monthly bill likely hide in a dark corner of your building.
Now, GE wants to get your appliances and your energy meter talking — instead of having you judge your own energy use, GE plans to release appliances that will show you the price you pay for using them. You’ll also be able to program them to turn off or turn down when you hit a certain budget. It goes beyond your house, too — these appliances will also be able to talk to your electricity supplier and ultimately lead to a smarter power grid that will optimise the way your city (and then the whole world) uses power.
The big picture is to reduce peak power usage — the most electricity that an entire power grid demands during the day, and the leading cause of power-related pollution. Many power companies save their most powerful (and hence most polluting) plants for peak times, so when you turn on an air conditioner during peak hours, you’re doing a more damage to the environment than you would if you turned it on during the off-peak hours. More importantly, you pay a lot more for consuming electricity during peak hours, simply because it’s costing your supplier more to give you that electricity.
By distributing power use over the day, a smart power grid will ensure that the most polluting plants never get used, which means less pollution, and less horrifying bills — even if the total power you use during the day doesn’t change much.
With GE’s plan, your fridge, for example, will be able to talk to your supplier and find out if it’s a good time to run a defrost cycle — if not, it’ll just postpone the cycle to a time when the grid isn’t as loaded.
There is another hidden benefit to GE’s plan — studies have shown that people whose energy meters are in plain sight tend to use electricity more judiciously, so if your stuff is telling you how much you’re paying to keep it on, you’re more likely to turn it off.
And finally, this plan might just revive that old alive-again-dead-again plan of broadband over power lines (BPL), for it’ll be crucial to getting this smart grid plan under way. Right now, at least, it sounds much better than the paint-everything-white plan to fight global warming.