Basically demand response is the act of responding to fluctuations in energy demand in relation to the supply of power over brief periods of time. Currently this is almost exclusively either related to disruption in the conventional power system where supply drops for some reason or there are extremely hot summer afternoons where power consumption soars when we all turn on our air-cons. The conventional power source is unable to supply this extra electricity causing or threatening black-outs in some areas. By paying a sufficient number of consumers to stop consuming power, supply and demand can be balanced and grid operations maintained without disruptions.
An example of this was recently carried out with our power supplier Powershop called “Curb Your Power” and this is how it worked. Firstly we accepted an invitation from them to participate in their demand response program. They then contacted us by text about one hour previous to requiring us to reduce our energy consumption by at least one third between the hours of 3.30 to 5.30pm. Before 3.30pm I wandered around our unit turning off all the unnecessary power consumers including the major one – the air con – but left 2 ceiling fans running as it was quite warm. Other power consuming actions such as cooking and clothes washing were deferred. A few days later the retailer rewarded us, and all other participants, with $10 on our account and conducted a survey to find out how we responded.
It later transpired that there was a power outage in the Lindenow area stretching across to places north of Bairnsdale – in this case over 1000 customers were blacked out – although the cause of this is not known. However we were experiencing hot weather and both our fans and air con were in operation when the request to reduce power consumption was received.
The demand response (sometimes called ‘negawatts’) process is simple. Sign up to a demand response program with your retailer and supply contact details to them. Then reduce your power consumption by a significant amount at the time and for the duration they request. Assuming this was successful your account will later be credited.
Almost certainly this was a trial run for our retailer as well. The next step is a refinement of smart meters (plus some computer software?) to calculate exactly how much power was reduced so that participants can be rewarded for that amount. Home batteries can extend this by selling power for an appropriate tariff when demand is high and buying it when the price is low or negligible thus helping to balance the system. This is a story I hope to elaborate on when we eventually have our battery installed.