Monday, 30 June 2014

Do we need smart meters?

It seems to me that the conventional wisdom on demand response has got stuck with smart meters. It says- in order to shift demand, we need time-of-use tariffs, and in order to have time-of-use tariffs we need smart meters. Smart meters will not be rolled out in UK until 2020 (but now I hear 2021....) so we can't do it until then.

This seems to me to be a policy of despair!

We can all of us, right now, shift our demand, easily, automatically and cheaply.

We just need to fit a time switch to anything that heats water, and use it!

I have done it, thousands of others have done it.

If you want to be clever, you could get app controlled devices such as the Belkin Wemo switch and ask someone else to switch it on and off for you. But why bother? Keep it simple.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Excellent Session on Smart Grids at Exeter University's Centre for Business and Climate Solutions today

Whether by luck or design, we had an excellent session today led by Tamar Bourne of Regen SW on Smart grids.

Participants included Andrew Shadrake of Climate Positive, a community energy adviser, Steve Eastland, a Cullompton based architect with direct experience of energy outcomes in buildings, Nick Thorne of Lumicity, a large scale PV developer,. Also present was an inventor of smart energy switching and metering, an anaerobic digester installer, a bitcoin expert, and a PV panel saleslady- and me.

How do we get from where we are to a smart grid where renewables are matched by responsive demand? Can we wait for smart meters or should we act now? How can we resolve transmission capacity issues for PV today? What role does community energy and demand have in this?

We discussed all of these at some length and went away with our heads buzzing and the promise of conversations and projects to come.

The best day out for months, thanks to the organiser Lucy Hawkins and the presenter Tamar Bourne.

Monday, 9 June 2014

Fatih Birol of the International Energy Agency says it all

As a member of the British Institute for Energy Economics (BIEE), I went last week to hear Dr Fatih Birol , Chief Economist of the IEA, @IEA present their 2014 World Energy Investment Outlook.
This was truly big picture stuff - the world needs to spend around $40 Trillion over the next twenty years renewing its energy infrastructure. Most of this will be spent by governments not companies - and if we follow his advice much of it will be on energy efficiency - including my pet subject, demand response , or time shifting. I asked Fatih how he thought we would square the circle of renewables rendering balancing supply from gas turbines uneconomic, and he confirmed my view that demand response was vital.

So, whatever direction you see electricity generation going, lop the peaks and fill the troughs!

If you haven't already done it- fit a time switch!

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Sustainability vs reliability - does our electricity system work?

The short answer is yes - thanks to National Grid and the DNO's we have one of the most reliable electricity systems in the world.
How reliable would it be if we relied on wind and solar energy, with a bit of very expensive storage for times when the wind doesn't blow and the sun doesn't shine? Not very.

This is the argument used by anti renewable campaigners - and if we do nothing about managing our demand, they are right.

Every march begins with a single step.

Install a time switch on your immersion heater and freezer, and use your dishwasher and washing machine after 8pm at night or when the sun is shining!

Don't wait for smart meters - it'll take too long!
Act now!

Wednesday, 4 June 2014

Excellent grid issue community energy session with Regen SW in Cornwall

In the South West of England, Western Power Distribution are now engaging in a positive way with community groups, to address the capacity issues in constrained areas, where the amount of PV is already so high that the cost of reinforcement for new installations can be prohibitive.
Nigel Turvey of WPD gave an excellent presentation in St Austell yesterday. There is now more PV in the pipeline for installation than the system can cope with. Much of this is speculative commercial project planning that may never go ahead, so there is some hope, if communities co-operate and work with WPD to get the best solutions.
Merlin Hyman of  Regen SW has now set up a community membership category, specifically to address this issue.
The problems arise when local generation and consumption are grossly out of line - so the longer term solution is partly time-of-use shifting, as I have long advocated. If we all do our bit, preferably without waiting to be financially rewarded, then the situation will be substantially eased.

Monday, 2 June 2014

How communities will shape the demand for electricity as well as the supply

The new UK Community Energy Scheme will encourage communities to generate their own electricity - and feed it into the Grid- if the local distribution companies, (the DNO's as they are known)  allow them to.

Currently, both the National Grid and DNO's such as Western Power Distribution are warning us that the capacity of the system to take any more power from renewable sources is less than that already thought to be in the pipeline.

So unless the big commercial operators are severely curtailed, some local communities will be told that there is no more room on the grid for their sub 5MW schemes.

What might their reaction be?

Initially, probably anger at being led up the garden path once again. But it may then occur to some of them that a solution lies in their own hands - managing domestic demand to meet the supply from renewables, or at least to lop peaks and fill troughs in demand, which are the bugbears of the Grid and transmission companies.

It will start to be in the economic interests of communities and their members, i.e. all of us, to manage our demand rationally in line with available supply.

We may find that we are unwilling to wait until 2020 for the rollout of smart meters before doing so.

We may even be able to enlist the support of the system operators as allies rather than as perceived adversaries.