ACE is testing a concept known as Demand Side Response (DSR), where residential electricity customers are rewarded if they can reduce their energy usage at certain times in the day – usually when demand for electricity is at its highest.
Demand for electricity usually peaks between the hours of 4:30pm and 7:30pm when most people get home from work and turn on their TVs, kettles, computers and ovens. This peak demand is even higher in the winter when more lighting and heating is needed to combat the long, dark nights.
Adding to this is the rising popularity of low carbon technologies like electric cars and heat pumps. There could be one million electric cars on Britain’s roads by 2020 and if everyone on a single street needed to charge their vehicle after work, it would create an even bigger spike in electricity demand.
That’s why Northern Powergrid and other network operators are looking at potential solutions like ACE now, to make sure Great Britain’s electricity networks are fit for the future and can support the plans for a greener, low carbon economy.
Upgrading underground cables and overhead lines to meet the extra demand is one way of dealing with the problem, but it can be expensive and disruptive. Projects like ACE are exploring smarter, lower cost alternatives because if households could be more flexible with their electricity use and move it away from the teatime peak, less money would have to be spent on network upgrades.
If people are willing to be more engaged in their own energy use, it would help reduce demand for electricity at peak times of the day and ease the strain on local electricity networks. The savings DNO’s make from not having to reinforce the network could then be shared with customers, just like they are through the ACE project.