The Hotpoint Ariston Aqualtis, designed by Indesit, is being installed in 150 homes across Northeast England as part of the Customer-Led Network Revolution (CLNR) project, which is investigating ways in which the UK can move towards a greener, low carbon economy.
Aqualtis is the first Indesit washing machine designed to be integrated into ‘smart’ ecosystems and will be connected directly to the internet with the ability to communicate real-time messages between customers and the electricity network.
When scheduling a wash, customers can see exactly how much it will cost them via an LCD screen display unit, and the machine will offer alternative options to save customers money, such as doing washing during off-peak hours when demand on the electricity network is lower.
The trials will also test ‘demand side response’, which is the process whereby electricity network operators can contact customers through the washing machine and offer a financial incentive, such as a reduced tariff, if they are prepared to reschedule their washing for a time when the network is less busy.
Allan Row, Low Carbon Networks Fund project manager for British Gas, one of the key partners in the CLNR project, said: “In line with Government targets, the UK is gradually moving towards a low carbon economy, but this will invariably put more pressure on Britain’s electricity network as more people take up low-carbon technologies, such as electric vehicles or solar panels for example.
“With this washing machine trial, and lots of other trials as part of the CLNR project, we will begin to see how flexible customers are willing to be in terms of when and how they use their electricity.
“We want to develop an understanding of the role customers could play in the UK’s low carbon future, looking at whether they are happy to change their usual routines because it will make their bills cheaper, or because they’re offered an incentive by their network.
Stefano Frattesi, Indesit’s Technology Center Director, said: “We are excited that the CLNR project is exploring the intelligence of our Hotpoint Aqualtis smart washing machine. We have made pioneering progress in the field of smart grids and this new trial brings huge possibilities in terms of energy savings, confirming our commitment to innovating to benefit the environment.”
British Gas aims to have as many as 75 customers allocated to two different groups for the project and will be monitoring customer behaviour over a 12-month period.
The first customer group will be on a ‘Peak Electricity Saver’ trial and has been assigned a time-of-use (TOU) tariff to help develop a greater understanding of how cheaper tariff times impact their electricity consumption.
The second group of customers will be on the ‘Energy Supply Manager’ trial and has agreed to ‘demand side response’, providing the network operator with the ability to ask the customer whether they would consider rescheduling the time at which they have programmed their washing.
Recruitment for households to take part in the washing machine trials is ongoing, but is restricted to British Gas customers who receive their electricity via Northern Powergrid, the electricity distributor for the Northeast and Yorkshire.
Several other trials are currently taking place in the same region as part of the CLNR project, involving other ‘smart’ technology such as solar panels, thermal store heat pumps, and electric vehicles.
The CLNR project is the largest project of its kind and part funded through Ofgem’s Low Carbon Networks Fund – established to encourage electricity distributors to research how the UK can make the transition to a low-carbon economy.