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The National Grid is requiring all new appliances be fitted with sensors that enable utilities to shut them down during period of ultra high demand. These smart appliances affected include refrigerators, freezers, electric ovens, air-conditioning units, and washing machines.

But one man’s technological breakthrough is another’s loss of privacy and government intrusion. Proponents of the initiative say it will help prevent blackouts and allow for more efficient energy use. Opponents say it is George Orwell’s 1984 come to dastardly fruition.

The Daily Mail reports Electrolux energy strategy manager Viktor Sundberg calls it a “Big Brother technology on a grand scale. The device inside the fridge or freezer will automatically change the way the appliance operates in response to the output of the grid. This method of shutting down household appliances could to be carried out almost instantly, saving the energy companies millions because they won’t have to start up the turbines or pay huge industrial companies to cut production. Consumers are not benefiting at all and will be left paying more when they buy the appliances, as well as having their private goods controlled by outside forces.’

David Davis, one-time Tory leadership candidate, agrees there is a Big Brother element ay play. “It also shows the energy suppliers passing down their incompetence to the customers. They should be supplying energy as customers need it, not the when they want to give it. There is something Soviet about this. It’s a ridiculous idea and it should be opposed. I hope the Government puts its foot down.”

Nick Pickles, director of civil liberties advocacy group Big Brother Watch adds: “This sinister plan smacks of over- the-top intrusion into people’s houses. It should be the choice of consumers if they want to sign up to it, not slipped into our homes through fridges and freezers.”

Looked at from another perspective, the National Grid is mandated by statute to balance supply and demand in the network. The EU target is for 20 percent of all electricity to be generated from green sources by 2012. But renewable are still unreliable so the National Grid proposed to install the devices in appliances.

The proposal was drawn up by the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity (ENTSO-E). In it, ENTSO-E stated that shutting off appliances would only be a last resort. “The accumulated effect of switching off a large number of temperature-controlled devices will give a substantial reduction of load in the system. In this way it should be able to prevent…large scale blackouts.”

The proposal has been endorsed by the EU-wide body of energy regulators and was sent to the European Commission on March 27. Appliances containing the sensors could be in shops within three years.

A spokesman for National Grid notes: “One of the proposed requirements is for a limited number of [future] temperature controlled devices such as fridges and freezers to have the capability to assist  the real time balancing of electricity supply and demand by automatically switching off devices for  short durations. This should result in benefits to consumers as it will lead to a reduced requirement for additional back-up electricity sources. It will have no material impact on the operation of fridges and freezers switching will be for a few seconds and only occasionally. Consumers’ produce will remain cool in their fridges and frozen in their freezers.”

The Daily Mail reports: “Presently, the National Grid can shut down power to industrial firms to balance the grid. They are compensated in such cases, but there is no proposal to pay consumers if they face similar interruptions.”



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