T&D World Magazine

GE Announces Program to Partner with Utilities to Reshape Energy Usage

GE Consumer & Industrial is introducing a program that will provide the next step in home energy cost savings for consumers while helping utility companies better manage the demand for energy during peak energy usage times.

“Now that ENERGY STAR appliances are recognized by 75 percent of American consumers, the next step is to reshape when energy is being used,” said Kevin Nolan, vice president technology for GE Consumer & Industrial. “Peak hour energy demand is growing faster than total energy demand. It is imperative that we begin to shift some of the energy load from peak hours to other parts of the day -- helping to avoid the need to build new power plants to meet the demand,” he said.

In the first Quarter of 2009, GE will introduce a suite of “smart” appliances or Energy Management Enabled Appliances. These GE appliances will be enabled to receive a signal from their local utility. The appliances will receive the control message and react based on the appliance’s internal programming. It requires no customer interaction.

Within 10 years, energy management-enabled appliances could easily occupy the market space held by Energy Star products today. GE is investing in these appliances today, and – by doing so – will be ready to help consumers use less energy and reduce their utility costs in the future.

GE is looking for utility companies to collaborate with in this endeavor. There are over 3,000 utilities nationwide. GE is currently conducting a pilot program in Louisville, Kentucky, partnering with Louisville Gas and Electric Company (LG&E), a wholly owned subsidiary of E.ON U.S. LLC., the world's largest investor-owned utility company. LG&E is a regulated electric and natural gas utility serving over 384,000 electric customers in Louisville and 16 surrounding counties. LG&E’s total regulated generation capacity is 3,514 megawatts.

These “smart” or Energy Management Enabled Appliances and the utility “Smart Meters” help consumers manage their utility bills by enabling them to avoid peak hour energy usage and benefit from pricing. For the pilot, Energy Management Enabled will be placed in a select number of participating pilot homes and will be enabled to receive the LG&E signal. The appliances will automatically respond to the signal transmitted from the LG&E.

For example, the automatic defrost feature on GE refrigerators is initiated by the internal electronics based on the number of refrigerator door openings and other input signals. If the refrigerator can delay the defrost cycle from occurring during peak energy usage hours, consumers will save money by paying for the same amount of energy, later in the day and at a lower rate.

Currently most utility company rates are the same throughout the day. However, many utility companies across the country are considering a tiered pricing structure so that consumers can avoid using energy during critical peak hours (typically between 3 p.m. and 7 p.m.) and save money.

“At GE, we believe that peak load reduction is the next opportunity in energy saving appliances. We believe that smart, energy management-enabled appliances will be the next phase of innovation,” explained Nolan. “It’s not enough to simply use less power, as Energy Star encourages today, we now need to consume our power more intelligently.”

In addition to “smart” refrigerators, GE will enable ranges, laundry pairs, dishwashers and microwave ovens to receive and respond to communications from the utility company. Consumers will be notified of a rate change or of critical peak pricing on a display on their appliances letting them know when higher rates are in effect. Appliances will be programmed to avoid energy usage during that time but consumers may choose to override the program – giving them ultimate control.

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