We have no choice other than to deploy renewable energy generation. This is not just a matter of curbing carbon emissions; it is also an acknowledgement that fossil carbon is set to get much more expensive as the UK’s domestic supplies of oil and gas dwindle.
Renewables come with problems of their own of course; the worst of which is the intermittency problem – how do we generate sufficient electricity when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing? The stock answer is to put our faith in technology that hasn’t been invented yet – some kind of hyper-efficient battery that will allow us to store excess energy; carbon capture and storage to allow us to carry on burning carbon; or the magic fairy dust that is nuclear fusion – anything, in fact, that will allow us to continue with business as usual.
The more realistic solution is to change our lifestyles – both cutting down on our energy use and changing the times of day when we do things. The 7.00am start up, when the majority of us are turning on lights and switching on kettles and toasters before getting the kids off to schools and embarking on the daily commute, places a strain on the electricity grid. The 6.00pm return home even more so. But rather than seeking to store daytime energy in order to meet these peaks, wouldn’t it be easier if we simply ironed out the peaks?
This is the approach being taken by community level Energy Local clubs according to Marie-Claire Kidd at Co-operative News:
“With support from Co-operative Energy, groups of customers are using smart meters to measure how much energy they consume and when they consume it. They create ‘smart local energy’, which could revolutionise the relationship between customers, small-scale power generation and suppliers.”
By cutting out the requirement to feed energy into the grid, Energy Local clubs can dramatically lower the price of energy, and can use price incentives to encourage people to use electricity at different times of the day:
“Smart meters record the data so customers can be rewarded if they shift energy use away from the peak time of 6pm and coincided use with local renewable production. Armed with this knowledge, these groups can negotiate a better deal with their supplier.”
Energy Local club trials are currently taking place in Watchfield and Shrivenham in Wiltshire, Longcot in Oxfordshire and Bethesda in Wales. The hope is that in time, Energy Local clubs could link electricity customers with local renewable energy producers and empower energy communities to negotiate better prices with energy retailers.