LOUISVILLE, KY – (November 17, 2009) – As more Smart Grid programs move out of the proposal phase and into live pilot testing, GE Consumer & Industrial‘s smart–grid enabled appliances are leading the way for the consumer component of the grid. That pace of adoption is expected to grow as more currently pending Federal grant applications are approved.
“As all types of electric utilities are looking for ways to make their grids more efficient, residential electric use is an important part of their planning. When you consider the overall energy use of a home, appliances account for about 85 percent, making smart appliance technology very attractive to utilities as a way to shed load during peak usage periods,” said Kevin Nolan, Vice President of Technology for GE Consumer & Industrial. “Now that the stimulus grants have been awarded, utilities are moving forward with their plans – both those that did and did not receive funding.”
On November 4, Reliant Energy – one of the largest competitive retail electric providers serving customers across Texas – and GE agreed to a test of GE smart appliances as part of a home–based smart energy program. Reliant will install a full set of GE‘s smart appliances – refrigerator, dishwasher, range, microwave, front load washer and dryer and hybrid water heater – in its Houston smart energy demonstration house. In addition, the company will test how families use the appliances in the homes of a several Reliant employees. Coupling the appliances with smart meters and time–of–use pricing in real homes will give a much better picture of how consumers across Texas will be able to manage their home energy use in a way that makes sense for them. The effort is part of Reliant‘s Smart Grid Investment project which was the only project proposed by a competitive electricity retailer in Texas to be chosen by the Department of Energy for grant funding.
The Vineyard Energy Project (VEP) plans to negotiate a pilot project with GE‘s smart appliances on Martha‘s Vineyard starting next year. David McGlinchey, the executive director of the VEP, announced that 50 Vineyard homeowners plan to participate in the program.
Several other utilities, yet to be announced, are also evaluating GE smart appliances in their laboratories.
October 5, GE announced a landmark pilot program in Masdar City – targeted to be the world‘s first carbon neutral, zero waste city being built in the UAE‘s capital of Abu Dhabi. GE specifically designed and manufactured the appliances and networks for this pilot. The equipment will be installed in early 2010 in the first building to be completed at Masdar City, the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology.
GE has had a smart or demand response appliance pilot program currently underway with Louisville Gas & Electric (LG&E) for about a year. Participants in the program, who are also GE employees, have reported that by changing some behaviors and using the features of the smart appliances they have saved money on their utility bills during peak pricing periods. Some reported as much as a 20% savings.
Reliant Energy President Jason Few said: “Working with GE on this program will help us bring the benefits of the smart grid to more customers in the competitive Texas market. As more smart meters are installed, customers will be able to take advantage of smart energy applications offered by Reliant Energy, giving them better insight into how they use energy so they can make energy decisions that are right for them.”
Vineyard Energy‘s David McGlinchey said: “The island is very focused on energy efficiency. Using this cutting edge smart grid technology to help us reduce the need for more power generation during peak demand times will help us reduce pollution by not firing up additional generating capacity and will eventually help our residents save money on their utility bills. The key learning will be if this solution is sustainable. Will our residents embrace these appliances? To accomplish our goals of less power generation, less pollution and lower energy costs, we need these appliances to be accepted into the island culture.”
How GE Smart Grid Enabled or Demand Response Appliances work:
GE‘s “smart appliances” receive a signal from the utility company‘s smart meter which alerts the appliances, and the participants, when peak electrical usage and rates are in effect. In the pilot program, the signal word “eco” comes up on the display screen. The appliances are programmed to avoid energy usage during that time or operate on a lower wattage; however, participants could choose to override the program.
“Most pilot program participants in the LG&E pilot liked the control of using their appliances how and when needed and noted little need to change their behavior when using their refrigerators, microwave ovens or ranges. That is understandable,” explains Nolan, “the only noticeable change in using the range is a longer pre–heat time, typically an increase of 5 minutes. For the microwave oven, the wattage used is decreased about 10% during peak hours.
Other examples of savings are:
- The refrigerator delays the defrost cycle from occurring during peak hours and goes into energy saving mode. One participant‘s energy efficiency efforts with refrigerator usage over 10 weekdays showed over a 20% reduction of energy usage during peak hours.
- Microwave ovens power down slightly by reducing wattage used when operated during peak hours.
- The “smart” dishwasher can delay starting the cycle to off peak times.
- Choosing to delay laundry to off peak time can help consumers meet their own energy efficiency targets. Understandably, interaction with the dishwasher and laundry appliances was noted as the most challenging by the participants.