Saturday, 17 May 2014

Or to put it another way....

I have been working on a simple idea to reduce the number of power stations we need, and also to increase the amount of renewable electricity that the electricity grid can accept.
 
We have two acute problems facing the electricity industry:
  •       The cost of new power stations and hence of electricity
  •       The ability of the grid to accept higher levels of renewable electricity
The number of power stations we need is determined by the peak electricity demand, which occurs in the late afternoon and early evening (3-8pm)from November to March. The demand peaks at around 5:30pm at 7 Gigawatts above that during other times.
 
If this peak can be eliminated, we could avoid the need to build 7 large fossil or nuclear power stations.
People say it is a big if. But is it?
 
To achieve it, on average each household or small business would have to reduce their consumption by 350 watts for part of this time, or 1kWh (unit) of electricity over the peak period.  That’s one dishwasher or washing machine load. Or a fifth of a bath!
 
The point is not to reduce consumption, although that is of course also a good thing, but to shift the time of consumption away from the peak.
This can easily be done using time switches or delayed on switches as are increasingly fitted to dishwashers.
 
The cost to the individual is about £5 for a plug in time switch, or £26 for an immersion heater wired in time switch. The incidental energy saving from using them could pay for them in under a year. The benefit in reduced capital cost of generating capacity is a factor of ten greater than these costs.
 
My aim is to get as many people as possible doing this and talking about it with others.
 
Eventually there will be a direct financial motivation to do it through time of use tariffs, but this could take a decade, given the lengthy timetable for the rollout of smart meters.