28 October 2009

Stimulus smart grid money heads into home channel

Last year the power companies were predicting new smart grid technology and hyper-efficient appliances. GE, for example, is pushing this tech, no surprise, seeing as the company stands to sell a lot of new smart meters. Well, the Obama administration is using $3.4 billion in stimulus money to help that trend along.

While most of the cash is going to a wide range of power companies, $19.3 million of that is going to the home channel's own Whirlpool Corp. to help spur the creation of smart appliances such as dryers. These machines will be able to read the electric grid in order to regulate power use and save money, for example, by turning on when electricity is cheaper.

Here's what Whirlpool exec VP Bracken Darrell said at the Energy Efficiency Global Forum & Exhibition in Paris last April:
By 2015 we are prepared to make ALL the electronically controlled appliances we produce, ANYWHERE in the world, capable of receiving and responding to a signal requesting curtailment of the appliance’s energy consumption. These products will also be capable of providing the consumer with contemporaneous information about their energy consumption. Whirlpool would also require any manufacturer that is licensed to use the Whirlpool brand to add similar capability to products bearing the Whirlpool brand.

I have to count myself unconvinced, though, so far. Are consumers going to be happy leaving their wet laundry in the drier until 3 am, when the electric rates go down? What if they have another two loads to dry after that? And will consumers want their clothes to sit in a ball in the drier getting wrinkled from 4:30 am until the consumer gets around to taking them out two or four hours later? I look forward to seeing how the engineers at Whirlpool tackle these problems. $19.3 million says they'll think of something.

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