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Californians will be forced to break out in a sweat whether they like it or not as part of an energy efficiency plan being considered by the state government.

The plan, which would mandate “smart thermostats” in new and substantially rebuilt buildings, as well as overhauled heating and cooling systems, is included in a revised building code being considered by the California Energy Commission this month.

Utilities, faced with energy shortages, would be able to remotely adjust the thermostats in consumers’ homes, effectively cooling down heating systems and dialling back air-conditioning systems, to reduce power draw.

Of the two, air-conditioning is arguably the bigger problem. California’s energy crisis back in 2000/2001 was largely caused by a combination of spiralling demand from air-conditioning units after a population boom in the state’s central valley and other arid areas, coupled with a bodged utilities privatisation programme and a creaking power infrastructure. The result was brownouts and rolling power cuts through a torrid summer.

But Californians jealously guard their freedom to watch TV wearing a bikini in winter or a all-in-one rubber body suit in summer without breaking a sweat or feeling a chill. An outcry over the plans has forced regulators to allow consumers to over-ride the central set temperature though, apparently, the utilities will be able to over-ride that over-ride in extremis.

Whether the plan will be adopted is anyone’s guess. Back in 2004 a San Francisco-based state legislator tried to get the principles of Feng Shui enshrined in the state building code – shockingly, he failed. At around the same time, though, the state swore in an Austrian-born half-man, half-robot as their duly elected supreme leader. ®

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