Monday, 7 December 2015

The message about awareness, altruism and peer pressure is going mainstream...thanks to Lord Deben and Sustainable Homes

Sustainable Homes, the accreditation body for housing organisations, has produced an excellent new report on what actually motivates home dwellers to change their energy behaviour,
Awareness, altruism and peer pressure all feature. They even mention peak demand issues on their site, although this is not yet centre stage.

Friday, 13 November 2015

Regen SW starting to put more emphasis on demand response

Now that the distribution capacity issues have become terminal for new PV in Devon and Cornwall, Regen SW is shifting the emphasis towards demand response and curtailed feed in periods for future PV installations, see

The well-named Tamar Bourne is leading this project under the able leadership of Merlin Hyman, their wizard CEO.
Let's hope it catches on!

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Does renewable electricity reduce our need for conventional power stations?

Renewable electricity is often referred to as the answer to our need to reduce carbon and save the planet from climate change.
But does it?
In UK, we have three main sources of renewables -

  •  Hydro, which is reliable and can be switched on at times of high demand, and is about 2% of national capacity
  • PV, which generates when the sun shines, mainly in summer -and certainly not at 5:30pm in winter when peak demand occurs-
  • Wind, which is intermittent and can not be relied upon to generate at peak consumption times.
So the picture for renewables in relation to peak demand is bleak - or is it?
As private PV owners are discovering, it is well worth our while shifting the time at which we use electricity away from peak times and into times of low demand - and also into times of high renewable generation.
It's much easier to do than most people think - we can delay the on times of dishwashers, washing machines and tumble driers into the middle of the night - or use them in summer when the sun is shining. We can put a time switch on our immersion heater and keep it off between 3 and 8pm - I keep mine off for a lot longer with no loss of convenience. 
All that is missing is public awareness of the value of doing so - if that were present then peer pressure would do the rest - look at recycling and where that was 30 years ago.
So do it and tell your friends!

Friday, 10 July 2015

Demand Response and storage - how much of each do we need? Wattstor may have part of the answer.


A new company in Cornwall - Wattstor - has a useful piece of kit which enables PV system owners to dramatically reduce the amount of electricity they need from the grid in summer. It stores surplus electricity during the day - up to 6kWh - which is then available in the evening.
I spent over £12,000 on a 4kW PV system , so I am a prime candidate for Wattstor.
Will it make any difference  to peak winter electricity demand - when there is very little daytime PV generation?
The Wattstor system costs several thousand pounds - mainly for batteries. If it shifts sufficient summer electricity from day to evening, it will pay for itself.
Delay timers and time switches will have the effect in winter of reducing peak demand at low cost with high reliability.
Perhaps someone could do the sums to calculate the ROI and carbon reduction of each approach?

Monday, 8 June 2015

Where will the drive for domestic demand response come from?

Domestic consumers in UK could - as I have outlined -  with modest efforts reduce peak consumption by 7GW. Simultaneously, they could shift demand into summer troughs, thus easing the strain on the system caused by solar PV, and allowing more of it to be installed.
Who will start the ball rolling? OFGEM? The DNO's? DECC? The big six? National Grid? Or you and I!
What do you think?
Be the first to comment below...

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Are we becoming too dependent on industrial consumers to even out demand for us?

I recently visited a cement factory with a hefty 2MW peak electricity demand. Most of their production was done at night, and they wouldn't dream of switching their big motors on between 3 and 8pm in winter.

Because they are such big consumers, they get very carefully calibrated tariffs that encourage them to use electricity only at off peak times - and it's worth their while to do so.

But 2MW is also the peak demand for any 2000 domestic households - and they will use electricity indiscriminately, pushing up the peaks and ignoring the troughs - unless they read my blog!

So a large village or small town can decide to be as environmentally friendly as a big cement factory if they so choose- just time shift those dishwashers, washing machines and tumble driers into the middle of the night - and don't forget to tell your friends!

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.



Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Is the double peak evidence of effective UK demand management?

Today for the first time I noticed that electricity demand peaked twice - at 1730 and again at 1845 ( 2nd Feb 2015).
Both peaks were 52.4 GW, with a "trough" of 51.7 GW at 1830.
Furthermore, demand was almost flat for a full twenty minutes from 1730 to 1750
Why am I telling you this geeky fact?
It looks as though the reason for this is demand response kicking in.
Industrial users anticipate high "Triad" charges which can occur without warning on days of very high peak demand in February .

Here is a screenshot from Stephen Morley's excellent realtime National Grid  site for 2nd and 3rd Feb

The double peak is clearly visible.

It shows that demand response works!

I wonder what the peak would have been without it?

Let's all do what we can with our own domestic consumption to pull the peak right down to the 1500 and 2000 figure of around 47GW by this time next year!

Happy demand side responding!

Monday, 26 January 2015

There is no correlation between the size of the carrot and demand reduction at peak times!

Here is a very useful summary from a DECC report of the effects of price motivators on the extent to which domestic electricity users alter their consumption patterns.
There is one clear message:
They hardly do at all!

As predicted by Alex Laskey of Opower, consumers do not react to this sort of price message! (Interestingly, though, the average reduction is about 14%, which is what is needed to eliminate the early evening peak).

People react to peer pressure - so the useful communication is:

I shift my electricity time-of-use out of peak times, do you?

Tell your friends!