Demand Response is a great way for making electricity grids stronger and more stable. This is very important for geographical islands, where power supply can be precarious, often suffers from interruptions, and is costly. But how can households contribute to make the electricity grid more reliable? By utilising Demand Response, individual homes can participate in the balancing of demand and supply for the grid. This way, they can benefit both themselves and their communities.
In principle, Demand Response is a way for ensuring that demand for electricity services – such as lighting, warmth, and heating water, is balanced with the available electricity supply. Demand Response encourages short-term changes to how we use electrical services so it matches the supply available from the grid at any given time.
The REACT project involves island communities with demand response through the use of digital technologies and computing resources. In this way, individual households can help our cause when using their home appliances. By accepting requests to change or postpone the time when using an appliance, a household can not only save money on their electricity bills but also bring great benefit to the community. Digital technologies, such as smart meters and in-house displays that show how electricity is being used, provide useful feedback on energy consumption and can help households plan and reduce their energy consumption during peak hours.
REACT will ensure that requests for households to schedule or put off the use of different home appliances – such as washing machines or dishwashers, matches the requirements of the grid – including the energy generated from renewables on the island.
Benefits of Demand Response
Demand Response solutions can help island communities benefit from renewable energy technologies by maximising the electricity generated from them, which depends on meteorological conditions. These are cleaner energy generation options that help reduce harmful carbon emissions. Also, Demand Response can help save energy and therefore households can benefit financially, by shifting their consumption to times when the price of electricity is cheaper. This can be possible through the use of electricity tariffs that vary the price of the unit of power consumed depending on the time of day. This way, households can save money through Demand Response by postponing the use of home appliances. For example, postponing the schedule for doing your laundry from, say, 10 am to 8 pm when electricity price might be cheaper.
In REACT, we conducted a survey at the demonstration islands (Inis Mór in Aran Isles, Carloforte in San Pietro, and in La Graciosa) to find out what people’s motivations were for taking part in the smart grid and adopting Demand Response. We found that most of those surveyed were willing to change their consumption by adjusting the temperature settings on their heating and cooling devices or turning them off. Also, people surveyed felt that it was very important to save energy and to adopt renewable energy technologies such as solar (PV) panels. Their main motivation for taking part in the smart grid was for environmental reasons and for causes that benefit the whole community. This is great news for REACT since the aim of our project is to enable island communities to actively participate in the smart grid, save money, help the island become energy independent, and help the environment too.
Demand Response and your home
Smart meters and digital solutions can provide information on the electricity consumed at home. This helps homeowners make decisions that bring additional energy savings. These can be short-term decisions, such as lowering heating and cooling settings on a given day.
Digital solutions can also support long-term decisions. For example, replacing old and inefficient appliances with newer, more energy-efficient models. With increasing interest in solar photovoltaic (PV) panels, employing a system that will help make electricity consumption match the times when solar panels are generating electricity would be beneficial. This means households can maximise electricity from the PV panels and avoid consuming from the grid. This way, households apart from saving money on bills can reduce the carbon emissions resulting from their energy consumption. For the community as a whole, a better-balanced grid means fewer interruptions and problems with the electricity supply for homes.
Of course, home appliances are not cheap and investment decisions for households require taking many things into consideration, including budget and patterns of the family and their lifestyle. However, when you consider energy efficiency and combine that with the potential for energy savings from demand response, these investments become more attractive. In our survey, we asked households which Demand Response technologies they might install in their homes. There was some support for solutions smart meters, in-home display monitors, and home energy management systems that can help control and manage different appliances in the house. Furthermore, most respondents were positive about solar (PV) panels.
Demand Response and smart appliances
As for the adoption of smart home appliances, the majority of respondents were interested in having a smart washing machine, followed by a smart fridge and a smart heat pump. Smart washing machines, like other smart appliances, are a promising way for making homes smarter and ready to take part in the smart grid.
Smart home appliances can be controlled through Wi-Fi using an app on your smartphone or tablet. This makes it easier to automatically schedule when you use them. For example, wash cycles can be programmed to come on when electricity is cheaper. Similarly, a smart fridge can offer the consumer different options for saving electricity. For example, the fridge temperature can be increased during the night, or it can be scheduled to reduce cooling when you’re on holiday.
Smart grid-ready appliances not only bring extra financial savings, they also add a novelty factor to your lifestyle. The ability to remotely control them can make your everyday routine more convenient. Having smart grid-ready appliances means that you can actively participate in Demand Response without the hassle of constantly checking when it might be best to use your washing machine or how best to keep your home nice and warm. Smart technologies can help improve the running of your household when you are not at home or even when you are sleeping!
Written by: Dana Abi Ghanem, Teesside University.