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Demand Side Response: Who will lead the charge?

Demand Side Response (DSR) allows us to shift our energy consumption patterns dependent on system demand, meaning we can move usage away from peak times. This will in turn allow for reduced electricity generation and carbon emissions. This begs the question – how can we make this happen?
How would it work if customers were to take the lead in using Demand Side Response? Picture this scene of domestic bliss:

Live feedback from your energy supplier would allow you to work out how much your energy costs (based on demand) at a specific moment in time. This would then influence your decisions around energy use – you’d know that waiting an hour to put your wash on would save you £x (you could even press the ‘delay’ button). You would also be encouraged to turn off devices at peak times – pressing a button on your fridge which would turn it off until it reached a maximum threshold temperature.
The alternative is we let technology take control and do it for us. In this scenario your devices can be remotely controlled, turning on and off in response to system or network demand. For example, linking your smart thermostat to the control system would allow automatic controls when it senses you are out of the house. Technology-led solutions can offer much more responsive services than customer-led ever could.
Both of the above scenarios are not yet reality. If customers were to take the lead we would all need to be more engaged, in addition to time of use tariffs and the ability to easily monetise energy savings. As customers, we are inherently lazy and creatures of convenience. There will need to be a significant shift in our mind-sets in order for customer-led DSR to make a meaningful impact.
Conversely, we like to be in control. We might also be unhappy about relinquishing control of our devices and a technology-led scenario is heavily dependent on the ubiquity of the internet of things, as devices will need to be smart before they can be controlled autonomously. From a regulatory perspective, this could also be a hard sell, as we generally take offence at government involvement in what goes on in our own homes.
A good starting point might be to introduce controls around electric vehicles (EVs), as they will have a significant impact on the demand on the network. Particularly as the problem is likely to be exacerbated by geographical and temporal clustering – people from wealthier areas with convenient charging facilities are likely to buy EVs and they would most likely plug in when they get home from work. Regulation could ensure that EVs are connected to the network using a connection regulator, which prevents charging at peak times. People don’t have pre-existing expectations about how EVs will work so could be more open to the idea that their control is limited - as long as their EVs are fully charged for the next morning.
How can we make DSR contribute a meaningful reduction in our peak energy consumption? Ultimately customers are not currently engaged enough in their energy consumption to lead the charge. Therefore, allowing technology to react for us will mean a more significant reduction. So that poses the question - how to we get customers engaged enough to give away control and allow technology into their homes?

Back to November 2016


  1. Carolyn Storey

    24/11/2016 16:46:04

    Food for thought

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