News for the Mail on Sunday: your fridge already switches itself off “without consent”

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The Mail on Sunday – I am not linking to their article – claims “sinister” technology is to be fitted in fridges which will mean they

will automatically be switched off without the owner’s consent under a ‘Big Brother’ regime to reduce the strain on power stations.

Perhaps I should not be surprised at this latest piece of mouth foaming garbage – after all this is from the stable that has done its level best to bring Britain to the edge of a public health emergency with its disgraceful campaign against the MMR vaccine, but this is really a new low.

The article contains the usual whines from manufacturers – who presumably would still be filling their fridges with the worst sort of CFCs if no one stopped them – and the hard right tin foil hat brigade:

Nick Pickles, director of civil liberties group Big Brother Watch, said: ‘This sinister plan smacks of over- the-top intrusion into people’s houses. It should be the choice of consumers  if they want to sign up to it, not slipped into our homes through fridges  and freezers.’

Anyone who has a fridge knows that its compressor engine turns on and off without direct user intervention, so why would it be so much more terrible if new fridges were fitted with devices that switch fridges off for a short period, a few seconds, when demand hugely outstrips supply?

The idea here is that consumer devices such as fridges should be fitted with probes that measure the frequency of the electricity supplied by the National Grid. If that drops too low then it is a sign that demand for electricity has significantly outstripped supply – which if it goes too far can cause far more serious effects than switching your fridge off for a few seconds.

So, as a way of regulating demand, keeping electricity prices down and carbon emissions low (as marginal generating capacity is likely to be expensive and dirty) this all makes perfect sense. But since when has sense mattered to the Mail on Sunday?

(You can read more here about the relationship between frequency and the grid. The site has a great little flash gizomo than shows the current state of play.)