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Switched on to smart power

Businesses can play an important role in keeping the UK’s electricity system balanced. We’re helping them do it with our Power Responsive programme, as Paul Lowbridge explains.

The UK’s energy mix is changing, with renewable sources providing up to a quarter of our power. But renewable energy is more intermittent than other sources. Conventional power stations provide extra at peak times; renewables aren’t always so flexible. On cloudy days, there’s less solar power, and when winds drop there’s less output from wind turbines.

Keeping the power supply flexible

So, as we rely less on power stations in the future, we need to find ways to keep the nation’s electricity supply flexible so we can balance the system in the most cost-effective way, helping to keep energy bills lower. Our Power Responsive programme is encouraging large businesses, and other big power users, to help tackle this challenge by adjusting how they use their electricity. 

The programme puts us at the forefront of what the industry calls demand side response (DSR). It allows customers to use energy more intelligently – they can turn up, turn down or shift their demand in real time, to save and earn money. 

Through Power Responsive we’re working with a wide range of partners, who’ve helped shape the programme itself. We’re listening carefully to customers: we want to develop new products and services that make it easier for them to take part in DSR and reap the financial benefits. 

Businesses might need advice on how to get involved, or how to set up control systems. Through Power Responsive, we signpost them to that advice, whether it’s from our own experts or third parties like Aggregator organisations – businesses who specialise in DSR services. 

Aggregators have already told us they’re getting a better response from businesses since the programme started in 2015. There’s also been a lot of positive media attention and hundreds of businesses have signed up to our LinkedIn group and mailing list. 

Highlighting the business opportunity 

The key to success is showing that DSR can save and even make organisations money, as well as shrink their carbon footprint. For instance, Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust earns £100,000 a year by making its back-up generators available to supply power back to the grid. 

Marriott Hotels aims to earn £500,000 over five years by turning down the chillers that drive air conditioning. And Aggregate Industries, a large manufacturer and supplier of construction materials, saves power by automatically turning down the heat on its bitumen tanks without affecting its product or processes. 

By 2020, we want to see many more businesses taking up DSR – and enjoying its benefits.

Related information

Published: June 2017