New smart appliances from GE will do great things. They will save energy, reduce greenhouse gases, curb demand for power on the utility grid, generate “green jobs” in America and—oh, I almost forgot—clean your clothes, wash your dishes and keep your ice cream from melting.
They will also be financed, in part, with your tax dollars, if, as seems likely, the company has its way. Incentives for manufacturers like GE that make super-efficient appliances are already part of the Waxman-Markey climate-change bill awaiting action in the U.S. Senate. As GE explained it, the government would provide “awards” to best-in-class appliances of $75 per dishwasher, $200 per refrigerator and $300 per water heater, paid directly to the manufacturers. As I read Section 214 of the bill (and I could be wrong, since it’s not easy reading), the government would also pay retailers who sell best-in-class appliances.
Did you know that the government was going to subsidize appliance manufacturers? Me neither.
Last week, GE executives came to Washington to talk with government officials and reporters about their smart appliances. When combined with a smart electricity meter, a smart grid and distributed renewable energy, GE’s water heaters, washers, dryers, dishwashers, refrigerators and stoves would help enable the company to provide zero net energy homes by 2015. That’s very cool. (Here are details from GE.)
While appliances are not the most exciting or profitable of GE’s businesses—the company tried, without success, to sell off its appliance business a couple of years ago—GE does have a history of innovation in the business. GE gave us the first self-cleaning oven, the first fully automatic clothes washer and the first refrigerator that dispensed ice and water through the door (which saves energy along with wear and tear on the biceps muscle).