Case Study – United Energy
Australia’s rapidly growing use of appliances and air conditioners in the home means that on hot summer days there is a dramatic increase in demand for electricity. When temperatures exceed 35 degrees, an average customer’s electricity consumption can increase by more than 60 per cent compared to that of an average summer day of between 25-30 degrees.
While there is a trend of declining electricity demand overall, United Energy’s (UE’s) annual growth in peak demand is currently around 1.7% each year, largely driven by housing in-fill and lifestyle appliance choices.
The result is that UE must invest in network reinforcement to increase network capacity and meet this growing peak demand. However, the top 20% of system capacity is used for a low number of hours per year.
UE is incorporating the use of smart meter data to trial voluntary demand side initiatives to reduce peak demand on areas of the network which are facing capacity constraints.
The voluntary trial analyses customer responses to incentives and the potential to manage peak demand so as to postpone or avoid expensive network investment, which results in increased costs to customers.
UE commenced a Summer Energy Demand Trial in 2014 in the Bulleen / Lower Templestowe area of Melbourne, where demand was reaching infrastructure capacity limits. UE customers had the option of taking part in the trial on an entirely voluntarily basis – agreeing to reduce their demand for a period of up to three hours on days when demand was expected to be extraordinarily high. In return, customers were paid $25 for each event period where they reduced their load.
Participants in the trial were given tips on how to reduce their energy consumption to a level which did not compromise safety or comfort. They could opt out of the trial at any time if reducing demand on a day was inconvenient. UE analysed smart meter data to compare the customer’s energy consumption on the event day to a day of similar temperature earlier in the summer.
Participants were also encouraged to access their detailed energy consumption data on UE’s free Energy Easy portal and monitor for themselves the impact of the changes they had made.
On average, customers reduced their demand by around 40% during the event period on each event day of the trial when compared to a similar day prior to the trial
By reshaping peak energy demand through minor changes to customer’s behaviours, United Energy may be able to delay or avoid costly network upgrades or new infrastructure, which saves customers money in the long run.
By increasing awareness of peak demand and encouraging strategies in more efficient use of energy, there is the potential to contribute to reducing carbon emissions.