Fridges, washing machines and other electrical goods could be switched off automatically in British homes without the owners’ consent under EU proposals to help power stations meet demand for electricity.
White goods such as electric ovens would be affected by the proposals to fit all new appliances with sensors that could shut them down when the UK’s generators struggle to meet demand for power.
The measures proposed by the UK’s National Grid, along with its counterparts in 34 European countries, to install the controversial devices are backed by one of the European Union’s most influential energy bodies.
They are pushing for the move because green energy sources such as wind farms are less predictable than traditional power stations, increasing the risk of blackouts
The proposals are outlined in documents drawn up by the European Network of Transmission System Operators for Electricity (ENTSO-E), and has been agreed by the EU-wide body of energy regulators.
The proposals were sent to the European Commission on March 27, and it is set to deliver its verdict on the proposals within three months, the Mail on Sunday reported.
They could then go to the European Parliament to be turned into legislation that would force manufacturers to install the monitors, which could see new appliances containing the sensors hitting the shops within three years.
Critics condemned the ‘Big Brother’ proposals, attacking the energy giants who they said would make millions of pounds extra profit under the scheme, as it would save them from firing up reserve generators or paying factories to switch off furnaces to quell demand.
There is no suggestion in the measures that consumers will be compensated for having their appliances shut down.
The sensors, which will automatically detect spikes in demand for power that the grid is struggling to meet, and temporarily shut off the appliances, could also add £40 to the average price of white goods for consumers, critics warned.
David Davis, the former Tory leadership candidate, said: “There is a Big Brother element to this – and 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.”
Viktor Sundberg, energy strategy manager at Electrolux, warned: “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 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.”
The National Grid, a private company that made £2.6 billion profit in 2011, is required by law to balance supply and demand in the network.
The EU has set a target that 20 per cent of all electricity will be generated from green sources by 2012, but these are unreliable, making the task more difficult.
The National Grid supplies alternating current to homes at 240V and an frequency of 50 hertz (Hz), but because electricity cannot be stored in bulk, there are fluctuations in this.
When demand starts to outstrip supply, the frequency drops – when there is more power than needed, it rises.
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