Demand side response (Turn down for what?)

Lily Cairns Haylor, Co-founder & Head of Product, Advanced Infrastructure

The old adage of supply and demand is as true for energy as it is for plane tickets. However, until very recently the demand side of energy management has been the much maligned little brother, far less interesting to talk about than shiny new wind turbines or controversial nuclear plans.

Out of necessity that is changing. The EU has recently agreed to a 15% reduction in gas consumption across member states, and whilst the UK has declined to put firm targets in place, the National Grid ESO is preparing plans to pay customers to turn down their electricity usage during peak demand periods.

This is based on a successful trial run with Octopus Energy earlier this year and in response to the ever increasing price cap, expected to cost over £4200 by January next year.

The plan is simple. Pay people to reduce their energy consumption during periods when energy is in high demand, by turning off energy intensive appliances that can be used later.

In the UK, energy demand usually peaks between 5 and 8pm. Avoiding using an EV charger, washing machine, dishwasher, or tumble dryer during those hours could save both carbon and cut energy bills.

Typical UK winter demand profile

Some reports have suggested customers could earn up to £6 per kWh turned down in peak times, so a tumble dryer that uses 5 kWh per cycle could earn its lucky owner £30 by switching off during peak times.

The policy could also reduce carbon emissions. Peak demand usually coincides with an increase in the proportion of power coming from high carbon sources. That’s because much like electricity demand, the amount of carbon used to produce electricity goes up and down throughout the day, impacted by renewable generation (is the sun shining and the wind blowing?), demand, and power availability.

By shifting our power usage from a dirty time to a clean time, we can massively reduce the amount of carbon emitted into the atmosphere. This is true for both individuals and corporations.

A high carbon intensity in the UK is over 400 gCO2/kWh, when gas turbines are switched on to meet the shortfall in generation from lower carbon sources. Often this happens around 5-8pm when renewable generation is at its lowest. A low carbon intensity is under 150 gCO2/kWh when power is being produced from renewable or nuclear sources; at night it can be even lower when demand is low and wind generation goes up.

Taking the same tumble dryer example, shifting the usage from high to low carbon times could save 1.25 kg of CO2 per cycle. Over a year of daily usage, that would be the equivalent to the emissions of flying from London to New York, just by changing the time you dry your laundry!

If you’d like to understand more, there are some easy steps you can take;

Explore apps like Yoyu, which will help you know exactly when is the best time to run your appliances or charge electric vehicles based on the carbon intensity of electricity.

Speak to us to understand how the carbon intensity of power changes throughout the day in your local area.

Published on :
August 25, 2022
Lily Cairns Haylor, Co-founder & Head of Product, Advanced Infrastructure

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Lily Cairns Haylor
Lily Cairns Haylor