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SECTIONS / APPLIANCES

OZ Could Get 'Big Brother' Appliances That Let Utilities Turn Them Off

By David Richards | Sunday | 28/04/2013

Manufacturers of appliances could soon be forced to build in sensors to Australian models that allow Government owned and private utility Companies to switch off refrigerators, air conditioning and washers when demand gets close to exceeding supply.

The concept which is set to be rolled out in the UK allows power Companies to automatically switch off appliances without the owner's consent under a 'Big Brother' regime to reduce the strain on power stations.

The concept of Australian Companies being given the go ahead is "real" claims executives at appliance maker Electrolux.

Sensors in domestic appliances would check this frequency every 0.2 seconds, and if it fell to 47Hz - a level that would risk blackouts - the devices would kick in and shut fridges, freezers and ovens d52Hz, the devices could make fridges become cooler, increasing demand and balancing out the system. 

The European Union's most influential energy bodies are behind the concept as questions are raised about the consistency of supply from alternative energy sources such as wind farms.

Appliance makers claims that the new sensor will add an extra $60 to an appliance.

Observers claim that utility Companies are backing the move because it saves them from having to pull in energy from other grids when demand reaches a critical point on hot days when many homes switch on air conditioning systems.

The sensors will automatically detect spikes in demand for power that the grid is struggling to meet, and temporarily shut off the appliances claims Viktor Sundberg, energy strategy manager at Electrolux.

 He told the UK Daily Mail "This is 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".

He added "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.'

Contributing to the move is a decision by the EU who set a target that 20 per cent of all electricity will be generated from green sources by 2012 - observers claim that these targets are unreliable, making the task more difficult.

The proposals were contained in a 63-page document drawn up by the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity (ENTSO-E). It has been agreed 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.

European authorities insist appliances would only cut out for a few seconds, and that consumers will be able to set acceptable temperature ranges so fridges would not be switched off if they were already warm, and therefore food would remain fresh. But if ovens are switched off temporarily, it could affect the cooking time of meals.

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