GE is testing a line of appliances with Louisville Gas and Electric that are able to communicate with the power grid and manage energy consumption according to the overall energy usage in the area. According to Cnet's Planetary Gear, appliances in this trial program include washers, dryers, ranges, dishwashers and microwaves. These appliances are equipped with "Smart Meters", which enable the products to interact with the grid and schedule the them to run during non peak hours.
Of course, you could always override this function, and run your appliance regardless of the scenario.
But ideas like this have increasing significance as power companies are considering the move to tiered payment systems, where power consumption during non peak hours would cost less. And for all this to work, there would need to be some sort of conventional protocol so any appliance could talk to any grid. But we're getting ahead of ourselves with that one. [Planetary Gear]