Consumers can play a significant role in the energy transition as distributed energy resources and the electrification of heating and transport increase on the system, says Zsuzsanna Pató from the Regulatory Assistance Project. Increasing demand-side flexibility and involving the customer is often cheaper than strengthening grid infrastructure. Power systems are in the midst of profound transformation. More nations are striving to decarbonise their electricity grids and to electrify sectors previously powered primarily by fossil fuels such as heating and transport. To help weather this sea change, policymakers and power system operators have a rich resource at their disposal: consumers. They do not, however, always recognise the value of consumers’ willingness to be flexible in how they use electricity. Consumers want to be part of the energy transition. They have rooftop solar, electric vehicles, heat pumps and the like. This can cause headaches for network companies. The distribution networks, originally designed to only deliver electricity, have grown less predictable. Demand is growing with the trend to electrification, and system operators must accommodate power generated by consumers, despite a glaring lack of data on these resources. A typical residential consumer profile is a thing of the past. To make matters more complicated, policymakers and system operators are not used to viewing customers as part of the solution. Given that consumers will foot the bill for the energy transition, it is important that policymakers and network companies motivate them to be a resource and value them as such. Demand response does not stop at reducing the peaks in electricity demand. There are a variety of ways consumers can modify their demand to save money and allow the system as a whole to be more efficiently used. Sparing the reader the nitty-gritty of the details, the graph above illustrates how demand can be modified along different timescales. To capture these values, we must ask ourselves how consumers can be mobilised. Well-designed, economically efficient network tariffs—the charges for the delivery of electricity to our homes and businesses—can induce customers to align their energy use with the needs of the grid.
Foresight 16th Dec 2020 read more »