Thursday, 2 April 2015

Are we a cargo cult?

Yesterday, our local electricity distributor in South West England, Western Power Distribution announced that the grid was now full, and no more large solar PV arrays could be accommodated. it wasn't an April Fool either, I asked their spokesman Nigel Turvey personally.

The warning signs have been there for some time - we do not have a system in UK designed to take large amounts of solar electricity, and the conventional wisdom is unless there is substantial infrastructural investment, it will be business as usual, with solar peaking at about 15% of overall supply if we are lucky.

Can we do anything about it? Yes! We can manage our demand to avoid peaks and fill in troughs. This is the low cost solution which we can all start to implement right now.

Without necessarily reducing our consumption, we can substantially alter the percentage of our electricity that can come from low carbon sources such as solar PV.

I am doing it, are you?

And are you telling your friends?

Otherwise, we risk being like a cargo cult, waiting for electricity to be delivered from on high, with no knowledge of how or why, or what the effects of the system that supplies it are.

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Demand Response - you ain't seen nothin' yet!

In order to accommodate more than token (10-15% of peak demand) amounts of renewable electricity on the grid in  UK, we will need to adjust our demand to meet available generation on a hitherto unprecedented scale.

This will mean:

·         Switching almost everything that is not essential off after dark if the wind is not blowing
·         Because the wind sometimes does not blow hard for weeks at a time in mid-winter, any storage will need to be capable of providing power for much more than a day or two.

There is a way of reducing this – a global renewable grid so that those parts of the world which have very high demand on winter evenings are supplied from places where the sun is still shining – e.g. Western Europe from Texas. (At the peak UK demand time, it’s around midday in Texas).
A first step to this is the Iceland – Scotland undersea link, initially to provide geothermal electricity to Europe.

The less we like the idea of these mega-projects and their financial and environmental costs, the more we will need to think about –and implement- demand management.
The time to start is now.  It will take many years or decades from early adopters like you and I doing something about it to mainstream action having a decisive effect.