Smart appliances could help future-proof the UK’s electricity grid, avoiding or deferring network reinforcements and investment in new power plants.
However, there are currently no national standards for such appliances.
The government recently launched a consultation on proposals regarding setting standards, arguing that regulation of smart appliances would maximise the opportunities for demand-side response in homes and businesses, while managing any risks and ensuring consumer protection.
Smart appliances are designed to shift electricity consumption away from existing peaks to times when it is cheaper, and more available, in response to signals. This reduces energy use at peak times, relieving pressure on the grid.
“However, if all appliances do this at once, this has the potential to create a sudden spike or drop in electricity consumption by appliances which could cause issues in the smooth operation of the electricity networks,” the consultation document explains.
Possible solutions include staggering signals to certain appliances, or randomising the responses of appliances.
The consultation also says that robust cyber protection is vital to ensure that smart appliances do not increase risks to the stability of the power grid, and to protect consumers from unauthorised parties taking control of individual appliances.
The government supports a ‘secure by design’ approach, and says that manual override options are important.
Data privacy is another important consideration. Consumers should be in control of any data exchanged with third parties arising from the appliances, with clear consent procedures that ensure they are able to make informed decisions regarding data sharing.
Regulation would also help to ensure interoperability, so that consumers can freely choose different brands without fear their appliances will not be able to communicate with each other, the consultation says.