6th February 2017
By Graham Smith
The prospect of cheaper electricity encouraged consumers in the Wadebridge area to change the way they used domestic appliances – but not enough to justify the connection of more renewable generation to the network.
A study to be published later this week shows that consumers shifted their usage from peak period, to off-peak, in response to lower “time-of-use” tariffs.
The Sunshine Tariff trial offered electricity at 5p per unit (kWh) from 10am to 4pm and a higher price (18p) outside those hours, during the summer. Participants did shift their usage, with those given technology to allow this to happen automatically, shifting more. However, the effect was not in itself sufficient to enable more renewable generation to be connected to the electricity network, the trial concluded.
The idea behind the trial was that if enough people were able to use appliances during periods when solar generation was at its peak, this might justify further connections to renewables.
Wadebridge has been in the forefront of renewable energy developments, with more than 10% of its homes having solar PV installations. The Wadebridge Renewable Energy Network membership of over 1,100 people, most of them local, gave a good base for recruitment to the trial, which required that all participants live in the same local area, supplied off a single electricity substation.
The trial aimed to establish how people responded to a time of use tariff. The findings showed that there was an overall shift in demand averaging 10% to take advantage of the low daytime tariff. The participants provided with automation technology to help them switch devices on and off at appropriate times shifted more (around 13%) than those who had to work out their own ways of doing it (around 5%), indicating the essential nature of automation for a future smart network. Overall, however, the shift in demand was not seen as sufficient to release additional generation capacity on the electricity network.
It was also noted that the cheap tariff was not sufficient to attract large numbers of participants in the first place.
Numbers were lower than hoped for, indicating the difficulty of achieving the required concentration of domestic consumers in a local area.
The findings are significant for future developments of the electricity network, and over the last two months there have been announcements of further trials and commercial offerings of time-of-use tariffs to domestic consumers.
The findings will be announced at a webinar hosted by Regen SW tomorrow (Tuesday), aimed primarily at the electricity industry, and at a presentation in Wadebridge Town Hall on 8th February at 6.30pm, for the volunteer participants of the trial. The full reports will be published by Western Power Distribution through its website.
The Sunshine Tariff was a project to see if electricity pricing could be used to influence domestic consumer behaviour, shifting demand in summer from the high cost early evening period to the low cost daytime.
The value of shifting demand lies in using locally generated solar power at the time it is produced, thus easing the load on the distribution network and potentially enabling more renewable generation to be connected without major reinforcement work.
The trial was a collaboration project between Western Power Distribution (WPD), Wadebridge Renewable Energy Network (WREN), Regen SW and Tempus Energy, funded by WPD through the Network Innovation Allowance.