Our relationship with energy is transforming. Until recently, 2 way interactions between energy and consumers used to be almost non-existent, or at best limited to very disengaged use-and-pay relationships (such as meter chargecards). However, the world is currently witnessing an energy sector transformation with climate change agendas behind many initiatives to decrease carbon emissions and create more sustainable energy resources. Environmental awareness amongst consumers and businesses is increasing and as a result, behaviours and habits are changing. We’re now starting to see interest in where energy comes from, but more importantly, if that energy comes from clean sources.
Technology is driving our changing behaviours
Advances in renewable energy and clean technology, such as wind, solar PV, electric vehicles and batteries are leading to a disruption in the way electricity is generated. This has created many alternatives to traditional large centralised power plants. Now, industries, businesses and households are increasingly generating energy, by initiatives such as solar panels or community owned wind turbines. This is often just for self-consumption but in some cases also to sell back to the grid.
Grid systems need to change
This is all great, but it also means that managing the technical operations of our energy grid is more challenging. Current infrastructure wasn’t designed to incorporate large amounts of renewable, decentralised electricity. The grid always needs to operate in a balanced way, meaning supply and demand matching to avoid powerline overheating or power outages.
New ways to balance the grid efficiently
The grid has traditionally been “balanced” by altering supply to meet demand. Or in other words increasing electricity generation to meet demand (e.g. turning on coal and other fossil fuel plants) or decreasing generation when demand is low (e.g. shutting down wind farms on windy days when electricity consumption is low.) This is in many cases expensive, inefficient and environmentally unfriendly.
The grid can also be balanced through demand side response (DSR) by increasing, decreasing or shifting electricity consumption. This can be achieved by simply disconnecting appliances such as fridges, dishwashers or washing machines for a few minutes during periods of peak demand. This ‘flexibility’ provided by DSR is yet to be fully realised, particularly at domestic level. Things are changing rapidly though. Thanks to digitisation through smart meters, cloud computing, Internet of Things (IoT) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) companies, such as Equiwatt, we’re beginning to unlock this potential. Software platforms are allowing the virtual control of smart appliances, which in turn enables domestic participation. More importantly, it provides smart solutions to deal with our constantly fluctuating network demand.
Simply disconnecting appliances for short periods of time, or programming our washing machines and dishwashers to start at hours of low demand is a simple yet very powerful way to collectively impact energy usage and save cost for consumers and energy companies. Better still, by introducing fun, interactive ways to save energy, we can increase consumer awareness of the impact that a large community of households can have on.
By having a more efficient grid system, then our energy future is definitely bright. The biggest challenge with all new technologies is raising awareness of the possibilities, changing consumer behaviours and simply getting people using the tech! We've made the Equiwatt experience as simple to install and connect to appliances as possible. You can experience it for yourself by signing up here. You can also help to raise awareness by following us on social media and sharing with your own connections.