Customers hold the key to energy security

National Grid’s plans to offer people cheaper power when demand is low to help reduce their energy use at peak times is a step towards a more flexible energy system. However, householders don’t have the information to easily take advantage of that low-cost electricity.

UK households account for 27 per cent of the country’s total energy demand and can play a big role in helping reduce energy consumption at times when Britain is short of power. But they lack the means to engage effectively in this new more flexible energy market.

The latest generation of Home Energy Management Systems (HEMS) provide customers with the key to unlock the benefits of a more flexible energy system. By providing homes with real-time information in an easy-to-understand format, and by enabling consumers to set simple preferences for how existing appliances in their home respond when energy gets cheaper, HEMS let homes take full advantage of the changes being proposed by National Grid.

At a touch of a button, these intelligent, low-cost systems use smart meter data, combined with information from the Grid, to shift household demand away from peak times, offering a user-friendly way to respond to National Grid’s appeals for consumers to reduce energy demand and letting consumers benefit in the process.

Savings are not just for electricity. For example, Cambridge-based smart energy specialist Green Energy Options (geo), produces a HEMS that offers big savings on gas bills as well. Its system again uses smart meter data, linked to a smart thermostat, to allow existing gas boilers to heat the home much more efficiently, saving 10 – 15% on the average heating bill just by using less gas . They can also automatically turn down the heating when the house is empty, saving a further 5% for the average home.

HEMS can cut the total energy demand of an average home by at least 20 per cent. This could save consumers around £500 per household this winter on the average bill of £2,500, under the Government’s Energy Price Guarantee. Any savings offered by National Grid to turn down demand would be in addition this.

geo’s CEO Steve Cunningham said: “Europe, including Britain, is facing significant energy supply challenges, as well as spiralling energy costs. That is why we need to act now to empower consumers to get as much benefit as possible, from supporting the flexibility in energy use needed to keep the lights on.

“To make this happen, energy suppliers, government, and the regulator must get behind the mass roll-out of home energy management systems as part of the smart meter rollout. They offer the fastest way of cutting energy bills and emissions for consumers, as well as reducing the country’s overall demand for energy. HEMS are critical, and very cost-effective, tools that let hard pressed families benefit from lower prices being offered by National Grid to help move energy use away from peak times.”