GE, the US ‘infrastructure, finance and media’ conglomerate, plans, via its GE Appliances & Lighting operation, to be the first major appliance company to provide a home energy management (HEM) solution.
The new business will handle GE’s line of energy-management solutions and will also call on GE Energy products such as solar PV, energy storage, thin-film solar, small wind and residential electric car charging stations to help maximise the smart grid benefits.
The HEM is based round GE's Nucleus energy manager, which provides near real-time information about household energy costs and consumption. As well as monitoring energy usage, the system can be used to remotely adjust smart thermostats and alter the consumption of GE Profile Appliances in response to utility price signals.
The suite of HEM solutions being developed will include the Nucleus energy manager, a programmable thermostat, an energy display, smart phone applications and GE Profile Appliances.
Appliances fitted with GE’s Brillion technology can receive signals from the smart meter and are programmed to avoid energy usage during high-cost periods or to operate on a lower wattage setting. GE’s smart appliances includes Energy Star-certified refrigerators, dishwashers, clothes washers and dryers.
The plan is that future upgrades will allow the system to monitor water, natural gas and renewable energy sources, as well as plug-in electric vehicle charging.
The HEM market is certainly hotting up. It’s inevitably going to be a huge market if smart grids are going to be a success – a flexible grid is of no value unless consumers are willing and able to take advantage of that flexibility in terms of control over their energy use. It’s going to be a long haul, though. Smart grid implementations are at various stages around the world and rely on a range of different technologies with standards yet to emerge.
Meanwhile, a whole range of vendors – household appliance manufacturers, IT equipment suppliers, wi-fi network companies, etc – are all anxious not to be left out in the battle to control household electronic devices.