Flexible energy tech in homes could cut UK’s peak electricity demand by 10% by 2030, study finds

The publication of the research results is timely

Called Crowdflex, the six-month study investigated how 25,000 households were able to reduce or increase their electricity demand based on price signals, using a variety of different technologies including smart meters with notifications and electric vehicle (EV) chargers.

During the study, some homes were placed on time-of-use tariffs, which account for fluctuating energy prices and demand, rather than flat tariffs. They were also informed about peak times. On average, these households reduced their electricity demand during the evening peak (4pm to 7pm) by 15-17%.

The reduction was even greater for homes with an EV charger, averaging 23%.

Other homes were asked to sign up to “Big Turn Up” and “Big Turn Down” initiatives, whereby they were rewarded for changing their electricity demand over a specified two-hour period. For the “Big Turn Down” initiative, the study recorded a 59% drop in peak electricity demand from homes with EVs and a 41% drop for homes without EVs.

Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks Distribution (SSEN), National Gris ESO, Octopus Energy and Ohme co-led the research, with National Grid ESO and SSEN splitting the £460,000 cost.

Using the data collected during the trial and extrapolating the results for the whole of the UK, the organisations are forecasting that national-scale adoption of time-of-use tariffs and related incentives and communications, coupled with domestic EV charging, could shave up to 10% off of peak demand. This forecast is based on a scenario in which 38% of homes have EVs and more than half of homes participate in turning up and turning down demand.

The research also provides a less optimistic forecast, in which 14% of UK homes have an EV charger and only 10% participate in turning up and down demand. In this scenario, peak demand would be reduced by 1%.

It is worth noting that the study did not account for home solar or batteries, or for vehicle-to-grid technologies.

The publication of the research results is timely, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak having several meetings planned in the coming days to plot an updated response to the ongoing energy price crisis. Think-tanks are estimating that hundreds of thousands of UK homes will see an increase of £700 or more for their energy bills this year, largely due to the increasing cost of imported gas. MPs and green groups have been calling on Ministers to use this moment as an opportunity to accelerate measures to improve energy efficiency, boost renewable energy generation and build in flexibility.

“System flexibility is vital for future system operation and we’re encouraged to see that engaged consumers can, by participating in time-of-use tariffs, help manage and reduce peak electricity demand,” said National Grid ESO’s innovation manager Geoff Down. “With the use of low-carbon technologies in the home set to grow rapidly, this project helps us understand the exciting opportunities for us in the future.”

Sarah George

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