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How the UK can fight climate change with smart energy demand

In the UK, the Department of Energy and Climate Change is considering how to reform the UK electricity market in ways that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The agency appears to be taking the lead in supporting the growth of smart energy demand as a means to increase renewable energy and enable greater energy efficiency.

What steps can DECC take to realize these goals? Here are some highlights from eMeter’s comments to this public consultation…

By Alicia Carrasco, eMeter Director for EMEA Regulatory Affairs

1. Don’t make consumers wait for smart meter benefits.

UK consumers should start enjoying benefits from their smart meters no more than a few days after installation. These benefits include:

  • Details about their energy consumption, along with the context of price and even their greenhouse gas footprint.
  • Next-day online access to their energy information.
  • Optional access to real-time data through a Home Area Network interface.

To avoid delaying consumer benefits, UK utilities must have their IT and communication systems ready by the time smart meters are installed.

Also, eMeter recommends consumers should be offered an optional in-home display. Also, consumers should have next-day web access to their consumption. And they should be able to view their energy consumption together with the price, and even with the carbon dioxide footprint that their consumption produces.

We believe that making the in-home display mandatory would actually end up putting consumers at a disadvantage, since this fast-moving market continually delivers new and better solutions. For example, there are already web portals and smartphone applications that help consumers plan and monitor their energy use, or set alarms for specific consumption thresholds or budget targets.

2. Minimum functionality requirements for smart meters.

In addition to basic capabilities such as remote reading, memory, switching, prepayment diagnosis, and interoperability, we also recommend that UK regulators require that smart meters be able to measure interval data. Half-hourly interval data enables time-of-use tariffs, as well as other dynamic pricing options (such as peak time rebates and peak day pricing).

Also, UK smart meters should include an interface to connect to on-premises networks. ZigBee is emerging as the de facto standard for this communication in the US.

3. Connect distributor network operators with consumers

In the UK, retailers are responsible for deploying smart meters, so distribution network operators (DNOs) may lose some benefits from the smart metering system.

Demand-side programs could help balance the network — but to do so, there should be a link between the distributors and their customers’ base. For instance, where smart meters are deployed, DNOs could get involved in demand side efforts such as electric vehicles, heat pumps, and distributed generation.

4. Policy can support smart energy demand

The Smart Energy Demand Coalition, which eMeter founded, promotes active participation by the demand side in European electricity markets. SEDC recommends these policy goals to take full advantage of the potential benefits of demand response:

  • Treat the demand side with the same priority as renewable resources.
  • Allow demand-side resources to participate alongside supply in local or regional wholesale markets via exchanges.
  • Encourage and support utilities in offering demand response programs.
  • Use demand-side resources as a reliability tool to support operations and renewables.
  • Adopt specific targets for peak load reduction.
  • Create or adapt local or regional wholesale market structures (capacity markets) and incentives to allow demand-side participation.
  • Provide consumers with choices.
  • Adopt reasonable EU-wide consumer data security and privacy standards for demand-side programs.
  • Provide reliable, responsive, cost-effective, two-way communications and measurement at the customer site.
  • Ensure that smart meter investments offer standards-based support for demand-side programs.
  • Technology must not be a barrier to changing from one retailer to another.

eMeter is glad to have the opportunity to contribute to this important process that will undoubtedly influence the energy and environmental future of the UK.