According to a report from Navigant Research, there are at least 1,342 Demand Response (DR) programmes underway worldwide. These are programmes aimed at achieving stability on the electricity grid by ensuring that demand does not exceed supply. While in the last ten years, utilities and grid operators have adopted new technologies and practices for DR schemes, the vast majority - 95% - are in North America.
“Demand response continues to exhibit strong growth in North America, but it is also showing increasing adoption in other regions, particularly in Europe and Asia Pacific,” said senior research analyst Marianne Hedin. “A growing number of utilities and grid operators, in countries such as the United Kingdom, France, Australia, New Zealand, China, Hong Kong, South Africa, Japan and South Korea, have actively taken steps to implement or expand their DR offerings.”
The Navigant report - Demand Response Tracker 2Q13 - looks at four different market models of demand response, each addressing different objectives: capacity, economic programmes, ancillary services, and energy trading. The report provides data on the different types of DR programmes, such as direct load control, interruptible load, critical peak pricing, real-time pricing, time-of-us and demand bidding or day-ahead bidding schemes.
Review: The Navigant report goes into detail about the various DR methods and programmes, but it’s worth noting that much of it relies on ICT, which will have an increasingly important role. Smart grids, combined with technology in the home that manages electrical devices automatically and/or under direct user control, can make a huge difference to electricity generation requirements.
Electricity demand can fluctuate significantly within a very short time. In the UK, for example, peaks have been measured at the end of particularly popular televisions shows as viewers switch the kettle on for a cup of tea. Suppliers have been forced to cope with these peaks by keeping power stations running on standby, ready to generate at short notice.
To date, most demand management (at least in the UK) has relied on moving device usage to pre-set low-peak times, specifically overnight. But using technology the reductions in power use can be a lot more subtle and flexible. For example, fridge temperatures could be allowed to increase slightly for a time, or tumble dryers switched turned to lower temperatures.
With smart grids, DR programmes are likely to be far more complex, with differential tariffs, and quickly respond to changes in generation levels, a must if a significant part of the power mix comes from renewable energy that relies on sun, wind, waves, etc. With the help of ICT, consumer devices – connected via home energy management systems (HEMS) over home area networks (HANs) – can be pre-programmed to respond to short-term increases in electricity costs, or consumers could manage devices remotely via smart phones.
It’s still some way off yet, though (at least in the UK). Much of the impetus behind smart meters is that the information on usage will help consumers to reduce their consumption of electricity. But it seems to me that not until we get smart grids with differential energy tariffs and consumers have the means to quickly and easily adjust their usage will we really see household consumption drop, and that’s very much down to ICT.