Helping to bring energy prices down and keep the lights on

Helping to bring energy prices down and keep the lights on

Researchers at the University of Oxford have launched a five-year programme to investigate ways of relieving peak demands on the UK's electricity grid that also might make energy bills cheaper too.

Peak demand is posing an increasing challenge to the UK's electricity system. A government commission set up to look at the UK's future needs for nationally significant infrastructure recently reported that up to £8.1bn could be saved if we became 'smarter' about electricity, including use of electricity at down times rather than at peak times. In the first study of its kind, thousands of Britons are invited to log their activities in a 24-hour diary so researchers can identify patterns of electricity usage in the home. They also want to know if there are acceptable ways of shifting or reducing demand outside of peak times.

The METER project launched today with the release of a short online animation called Power People It explains how by changing patterns of use, we would make our energy system less expensive, more secure and more sustainable. The film says that at times of peak demand, households make up half of the nation's . Until now, little has been known about what appliances and activities lead to the high demand during the most critical periods.

'We are inviting thousands of UK households to fit a special electricity meter and to record activities for one day only, using a diary or a smartphone app. These data will tell us for the first time what people are doing at the times when national demand peaks. We also want to find out whether people are willing to be more flexible about the timing of when they use it and how best they can be supported in this,' said Deputy Director of Energy Research and Principal Investigator of METER at the University's Environmental Change Institute, Dr Phil Grunewald.

The researchers need the public to take part in the online survey at . Those taking part will receive an electricity recorder to install in their home, as well as a personal activity leaflet and will also get the chance to have their names entered into a draw to win a year's free electricity.

Dr Grunewald commented: 'This is an exciting opportunity for everyone to get a picture of their own electricity use, while contributing towards the big challenge of making sure that our sustainable energy future will also be secure and affordable.'

Professor Jim Watson, Director of the UK Energy Research Centre, which is a partner organisation for the METER project, said: 'We still don't know enough about the social, economic and behavioural drivers of consumption in our homes. This exciting new project will significantly improve knowledge about the opportunities and limits to change, and help us identify new approaches to shifting or reducing consumption.'

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Citation: Helping to bring energy prices down and keep the lights on (2016, May 16) retrieved 21 August 2019 from
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May 16, 2016
I was hoping for more in this story. What incentives will be considered? What are the peak and off-peak costs now?

May 16, 2016
1. Insulate better
2. use storage boilers instead of instant water heaters
3. use heat pumps and solar heat collectors to heat up the storage boilers to conserve energy
4. Improve the utilities so you don't need to install extra lift pumps in houses to get proper water pressure
5. stop boiling half a kettle of water to make a cup of tea.

Washing a load of laundry or running a dishwasher happens so much more efficiently if there's hot water already on tap, instead of having the machine heat it up from the cold tap to whatever the temperature needed.

May 16, 2016
What are the peak and off-peak costs now?


Swings between 30 - 110 €/MWh right now.

May 16, 2016
I was hoping for more in this story. What incentives will be considered? What are the peak and off-peak costs now?
Psychopaths want what they want when they want it, even though the article is telling george kamburoff where to find more info.

Whatsamatter george, you only read your own links?

May 16, 2016
Get help.

Your fixation on the alleged psychopathy of others is a transparent cry for help.

May 17, 2016
Btw. The reason to the double-hump shape of the price curve in the previous link is due to the relative cost of changing output.

The british electricity demand is quite stable from between 10 AM to about 8 PM (CET) when it starts to taper off for the night. It's the up and down ramps that are costly to produce because the large and cheap baseload plants can't change output very fast.

During the on-ramp, the small and expensive load following plants are brought online first and they meet up with the demand as the baseload slowly catches up and finally displaces the load followers.

During the peak from midday to early evening, the baseload provides most of the supply, and then again in the evening the baseload starts to wind down well before the demand does to get out of the way, and the load followers turn back on to meet the actual demand curve.

May 17, 2016
With the introduction of more renewable power in the grid, there's more of that up-and-down motion going on, which means the baseloads can't work for as much of the time, which means more electricity has to be sold at peak rates.

If the utilities were to buy the renewable energy at actual cost they would end up paying more than double all acounted for, which is why the system has to run on subsidies - the government pays the renewable energy producers so the utilities don't have to. The utilities pay just a bit more, and so the consumers don't get a doubling or tripling of their electric bills. Hence the subsidies hide the cost of the system from the public.

In Germany, the subsidy system is slightly more intelligent because the money is taken from the EEG surcharge on the utility bill, which makes it more visible. Too bad it doesn't make it any more sensible. See:

CO2 reduction cost 219€/ton for a value of 9€/ton

May 17, 2016
And the above is why investments in infrastructure improvements and energy conservation/storage are a much more intelligent way to reduce CO2 output than trying to push more renewable energy into grids that can't use it.

Reducing consumption and shifting loads around, especially heating loads, result in decreasing cost which puts a positive value on CO2 reduction, whereas increasing renewable energy through subsidies puts a negative value on CO2 reduction.

The problem is that the entrenched renewable lobby and industry likes being paid the subsidies a bit too much, and they're dominating the public discourse over the matter.

May 17, 2016
After reading Eikka, I always think "Why bother?".

Good thing you are there and not here. You could kill California in a week.

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