The amazing electricity company

 Sometimes tradesmen come into the café. We seldom entrust ourselves to them.

For example one charming man from a nation wide fire extinguisher company came, introduced himself and asked if we minded if he inspected our fire extinguishers so he could sell us better ones. We told him that we did mind and advised him to sling his hook.

There have been several of these unsolicited encounters, and I have a principle of never signing up for something without at least a minimum of research.

Thus it was that when two charming people came in to tell us of a wonderful system whereby we could render patriotic service to France, save ourselves some money and automate our heating system (two electric radiators), our response was somewhat noncommittal.

In short, we did not commit ourselves.

We did, however, report to the committee of the café what the charming people had said.

"Run away", was the initial response.

I often feel that our initial, visceral response can be ill-founded and ill-judged - in indeed judged at all - so I did some research on the internet. This was the deal they had proposed, and it turned out to be true.

French homes are often heated by electricity. This is for various reasons including an essentially clement climate, nuclear power and the simplicity of installing electric radiators.

However, this leads to a high demand for power at certain times - especially in the evenings and at weekends when the weather is cold. At these times of peak demand France buys extra electricity from Germany. Germany, meanwhile, burns coal to produce electricity, or gas which it buys from Russia. The French electricity distributor decided that something should be done.

That which should be done included a scheme whereby little smart boxes are fitted to electric radiators allowing them to be controlled over a wireless connection. Another box provides 4G and wireless connectivity, and an app on your mobile hone allows you to programme your radiators. The system is installed free to its users, but is financed by the electricity distributor.

The system permits you to programme your radiators to come on and off at certain times, and allows you to set a desired temperature. In addition you can see whether your radiators are on or off and can override them. Thus we have been able to programme our radiators to come on 30 minutes before the café opens, to maintain a comfortable temperature, then to switch off 30 minutes before the café closes.

For the network provider, at times of peak demand they can switch off a proportion of radiators for 10 minutes at a time, and so manage the distribution of electricity. In this way it is hoped to avoid buying energy from other countries.

The system was installed on Thursday by a very cheerful and charming man. He showed us how to work the ap and how to control the system via the website. Then I programmed as described above.

Friday - we arrived at the café and it was warm! At 15h30 the radiators switched themselves off. 

Same thing today.

So far it's marvellous!


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