The introduction of demand-side response meets the preferences of the consumer of energy and helps the energy supply systems to remain balanced. Even though business owners and large-scale commercial corporations were the first to take advantage of this development for the sake of profits, it has moved in its application. Consumer demand-side response is now a point of interest as Demand-side response has its advantages to both a residential consumer and a business owner.
Through demand-side response, the use of power is flexible; as the consumer, you can adjust your energy demand according to your needs. When the United States Energy Independence and Security Act in 2007 defined the term demand response, it described it as all activities related to reducing peak demand through smart pricing and metering, as well as enabling technologies. The whole idea of consumer demand-side response benefits the grid by keeping it stable.
The term Demand-side response was known as Demand-side management (DSM) after the energy crisis in 1979. Various governments wanted to effectively manage demand through different programs because of the issues that arose with energy (fossil fuel then) production. These developments happened both in 1973 and 1979. However, the only thing that is helping Demand-side management thrive now is the availability of communication tools and more technology.
How Consumer Demand-Side Response Works
A distribution grid is responsible for the conveyance of power finally to the end-users. There is a frequency at which power comes into the grid; without renewable energy sources, this frequency is easy to keep stable. You don’t need a high level of control since the power is generated using fossil-based energy sources such as natural gas and coal according to the quantity.
However, including renewable energy sources like solar and wind energy, the input rate is unpredictable. Therefore, the grid operators need the consumers’ cooperation to regulate the power flow to the grid for a reward. Based on requirements and current state, the consumer reduces his power usage and avoids wastage whenever notified.
For a large-scale business or an industrial setting, the demand-side response is very significant because the amount of valuable power that could be wasted is high. Despite their relatively small power capacity, residential consumers can also be participants in demand-side response. With the introduction of advanced technologies, operators can coordinate the demand-side response without much human input. These technologies would account for all little grits of power that accumulate to significant power.
Smart-grid applications provide real-time data to producers and consumers that help them participate in the demand-side response. They aid the effective communication between consumers and producers of electricity on how much is needed and when needed. Consumers can fix their thresholds, then adjust their usage to maximize the prices.
Applicability of Consumer Demand-Side Response
In domestic areas, homes usually have loads that use electric power. They could be:
- Base loads, which are fixed and non-adjustable to meet basic needs such as lighting and the likes.
- Schedulable loads, which are used at some points in time, usually once a day.
- Flexible loads, like water heaters and air conditioning units, are only used when needed.
A consumer can apply the demand-side response to the control of flexible loads in their house. Since they are not used all through the day, they act as virtual batteries. This power gets channelled elsewhere when they are not in use. So, for example, when the weather does not encourage the residents of a house to use the water heating system, they can decline the power supply meant for that purpose.
Technologies Aiding Consumer Demand-Side Response
Certain technologies have been developed and would continue to emerge to achieve the goals of consumer demand-side response. Simply put, they are used for various functions and carry out specific roles to balance the grids.
- Current regulators such as fuses, limiters, and breakers are necessary to moderate the current flowing in or out of a system at a time.
- Distributed intelligent load controllers use artificial intelligence techniques to regulate and manage electricity load in a building.
- Meters – conventional and prepaid meters – are used traditionally to monitor power consumption rate, usage, and units for the sake of payment according to usage.
- Improved metering systems with centralized communication provide two-way communication, inform the consumer of how much power has been used, and help them make decisions. These decisions border around how much power to pay for and use.
The Hive Platform Flexibility Manager Module has an intelligent system used for effective consumer demand-side response. As a result, consumers do not have to be concerned with the activities involved in shifting loads because advanced devices with this technology carry them out.
What the Future Holds for Consumer Demand-Side Response
The advantages businesses get while performing the demand-side responses are more than the disadvantages. Homes can also be a part of this without having to use conventional methods. Smart technologies will continue to get developed and improved till almost all homes become partakers in demand-side response.
The same way advanced metering infrastructures are taking over the metering systems, more people would be able to participate in demand-side response when the available technologies are adopted on a large scale by the grid operators. With advanced grids becoming more used soon, it would aid demand-side response. That way, we can eliminate power outages, and renewable energy would be more appreciated.
Engaging consumers of electricity will only be possible with appropriate communication between them and the suppliers of power. Consumers can make their preferences virtually when necessary or at the initial stages of installation. Also, due to the flexibility introduced in the recent technologies, they can make changes at any point in time.
When was the last time you received a costly electricity bill, and you wondered what you could do to spend less? Shall I run the washing machine on a different program? Maybe the dishwasher? What about my new plasma TV? And that cute ornamental fountain in the backyard that runs days and nights, how much does it cost me?
Energy prosumers are not exposed to the details of their electricity usage. They often don’t know the difference between switching all lights off and reducing the time using a hairdryer. They rely on professional operators to decide whether or not to invest in a photovoltaic system or an electric heat pump. This contributes to generating a feeling of impotence and non-importance when actively taking part in the fight against climate change.
A survey of 400 homes in Michigan found that the average resident wrongly believed that she/he could save twice as much money by reducing lighting than using less hot water. Building contractors report that it is easier to sell a new home with visible solar collectors on the roof than with a passive solar design, added insulation, and other less-visible features, even though the latter would save energy more cost-effectively. But because these features are invisible to human eyes, people are less likely to believe in their energy-saving potential.
Prosumers have zero visibility of what happens behind the curtains of their monthly energy bill. There is an apparent disconnection between how electricity is made and how it is socially perceived.
In a bid to provide a solution to these challenges, we developed a pioneering project in collaboration with AEM (Azienda Elettrica di Massagno) that is financed by EnergieSchweiz and Fondo Energie Rinnovabili of Canton Ticino.
We analysed the consumption profiles of about 9k residential consumers belonging to the Lugano region, using 15-minute sampled load profiles read from L+G E450 smart meters. From this analysis, we discovered that the challenges faced by most energy consumers are due to the following anomalies:
- Inefficient heat pumps: when a user’s heat pump excessively resorts to its auxiliary resistance to maintain indoor comfort during cold winter days.
- Unreasonable standby power: for example, when a user’s consumption never drops below 200 W for several days in a row (maybe that cute water fountain wasn’t so efficient after all?).
- Anomalous consumption trends: when the general long-term trend of a user’s energy consumption drastically increases.
- Unexpected power peak: short anomalous high peaks of consumption could help spot a faulty electrical device.
What is DrainSpotter?
DrainSpotter is a user-centric mobile app that we are developing thanks to this ambitious project. With the DrainSpotter app, any user can monitor their electricity usage over time, receive informative summaries of their consumer behaviour, and be automatically notified about anomalies detected by machine learning algorithms.
Hive Power hopes to educate and empower consumers by making them actively responsible for their own energy savings with this app. This app will soon be accessible to all residential users of AEM.
How can DrainSpotter Benefit Customers and DSOs?
The DrainSpotter app helps consumers reduce their energy bill thanks to personalised recommendations and reports. DSOs will benefit from a community of users that modify their behaviour towards a more energy-efficient attitude.
As an example, we estimated that if all AEM’s residential users got rid of excessive standby power that lies above 200 W for more than 14 days consecutively:
- AEM would deliver 10% less energy in total,
- 5% of customers would reduce their total energy consumption by at least 20%,
- and 4.2% of customers would save at least 500 CHF off their total energy bill over a period of 1.5 years.
In addition to the obvious economic benefits, the DrainSpotter app:
- will guide users in the early detection of faulty appliances and anomalies that could cost them a portion of their electricity tariffs.
- Will provide users with a smart solution for monitoring energy consumption in their households, keeping track of how their utility bills are calculated in real-time.
- Will create room for automatic support services by the DSOs, who can now offer expert advice and/or solutions to a user’s complaints using the data from the app.
- Will grant users access to clear and concise information on how their bills are generated.
Smart metering is not smart enough if it doesn’t provide smart solutions to energy consumers and DSOs. With the DrainSpotter app, they can enjoy great benefits and efficiency in energy consumption and distribution.