Wind turbines farm, Basque Country, Spain

The problem

Not everyone uses their electricity at the same time, meaning that there are always peaks and troughs in the use of this energy throughout the days and nights. This means that electricity suppliers need to ensure that they have the capacity to meet the highest demand, even though for most of the time this demand runs at far below the available capacity.

The real problem here is that electricity cannot be easily stored. If it could then we would simply keep the capacity stored up to meet any demand, meaning production could be kept predictable and even. As it is, the only way electricity demand can always be met is by controlling the rate at which we generate electricity. This is relatively straightforward when we burn fossil fuels for our power, or use nuclear energy or even hydro-power, but with more and more renewable sources being used, things get complicated.

If demand is low when the wind is blowing or the sun is shining, then the electricity that produces can go to waste. Similarly, when demand is high and it’s still and dark, then capacity can be low and there is a risk of power cuts or outages.

The background

In 2009 the EU enacted the 2020 climate and energy package with three key targets:

  • 20% cut in greenhouse gas emissions (from 1990 levels)
  • 20% of EU energy should be generated from renewables
  • There shoudl be a 20% improvement in energy efficiency

If the EU is to meet these ambitious targets, more renewable energy sources are going to be needed. The unpredictable nature of the output from solar and wind energy sources means that the electricity ecosystem needs to become more flexible. Demand response (DR) offers great potential for providing this flexibility.

The solution – Demand Response

Demand response essentially changes how electricity is consumed from users switching on whenever we want and expecting the supplier to meet that demand to taking more control about when we use electricity and switching on when there is higher capacity. In other words, using power when the wind is blowing. Demand response programmes encourage users to do this by offering lower bills. By reducing peaks of electricity demand, we can reduce the cost of electricity production and these savings can be passed on.

Meanwhile demand response also enables the better integration of renewable energy supply into existing energy networks, thus helping to meet those EU 2020 targets.

By developing DR technologies that operate in blocks of buildings rather than individual homes, Sim4Blocks will maximise impact of more efficient electricity consumption, while also promoting local storage of electricity from renewables at the same scale for use when demand does peak.

What is Demand Response? Read More

How will Sim4Blocks achieve its objectives? Read More