Why we need to put consumers at the heart of demand management – by Simon Anderson

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Nicola Shaw, the National Grid’s new Executive Director has told us not to panic about blackouts because the Internet of Energy (IoE) will come to our rescue. We should stop fretting as we are on the edge of a smart energy revolution…

In many ways I agree with her: we are nearing an energy revolution and the Internet of Energy (IoE) will be a significant element of it, though I am not so sure that big business is the right medium to bring this about. If we are not careful this will turn into a major IT project managed by leading consultancies working for major corporations. It will take several years to deliver, even then will be late and the consumer will be forgotten until the last moment. In stark contrast, the internet and many of its most disruptive changes have been consumer and entrepreneur lead.

In our view, the technology is not the issue; it is here now and there have been many trials to prove it. There is still work to be done, but that is relatively minor.

What are the challenges?

In my view, there are two key issues:

1. This requires us to change from a centralised system with one directional energy and monetary flow to a distributed system with multi-directional flows. It is also a highly regulated business with many vested interests. This will not be changed overnight.

2. Consumer adoption. Piecemeal initiatives that cost a reasonable amount but deliver very little financial value do not work. Solar panels were mainly adopted for the Feed-in-Tariff (FiT) benefits: when these were cut, the market collapsed. The Green Deal never got off the ground. ECO, RHI etc. are focused on the fuel poor, but beyond that is there a market?

However, if we were to consider this opportunity by starting with the consumer then we believe we will not only come up with a different solution, but one that works and one that could be put in place quickly. After all, it is our demand that is being managed so putting consumers at the heart of demand management has to be right.

Introducing the Hybrid Home

How might this be done? Consider the Hybrid Home. Like a hybrid car, it combines many technologies, old and new, to improve energy efficiency, reduce running costs and deliver better living conditions. It is a consumer proposition.

At its heart is behind the meter or in-home energy storage. This enables any home to be run on off-peak electricity – and for those homes fortunate enough to be able to have solar panels, locally generated electricity as well. Like the hybrid car, the technology does all the work and you live in your home in the same way as you do now. You don’t need to set up your dishwasher to run when electricity is cheap – you run it when you want to run it. Why? Because demand management interfaces with the energy storage unit, not individual appliances. Much simpler for all concerned.

What about regulation? Well, like solar panels, there are very relevant safety regulations, but behind the meter is not in the supply-regulated space so it is not a major problem.

Be a part of our upcoming workshop

We believe that Hybrid Homes could become a reality long before big business can properly get to grips with large scale demand management. To this end we are running a workshop in two weeks time in London to see just how this proposition could be fast-tracked.

Our vision is that by 2020 all new homes and a growing proportion of existing homes could have around 10kWh of energy storage built into them, every home that is able to will have solar panels and the combination will rapidly and simply bring about the energy revolution Nicola Shaw is envisaging.

If you would like to be part of this workshop, please contact our Marketing Manager, Vicky Jones.