Concerns of demand flexibility
Project ID: AEE-2020-24
Students: Ismo Hammer, Aleksi Hämäläinen, Sami Rahkola, Fatima Samar, Juho Turunen
Project manager: Sami Rahkola
Instructor: Laura Remes
Other advisors: -
Starting date: 16.1.2020
Completion date: 29.5.2020
As an increasing share of variable renewable energy production will increase fluctuation in power system new balancing methods are needed. One promising technology is to use electric loads to balance the power system and lower electricity prices as consumption is more equally divided between different times of day and week. There are already technologies for controlling these loads and now the real question is that when this technology is deployed widely.
The problem with demand flexibility is the same as with many new technologies: if people will not use it, the benefit of it remains low. The reason why people might be reluctant to take part in DF is that they have some underlying concerns. If these concerns are not recognized and properly researched there will not be a target group for the DF.
Our idea was to discover these concerns by making qualitative research. We interviewed 16 electricity consumers from different backgrounds to find out the concerns which they have. The interviewing process was well defined and carefully planned to guarantee the comparability of the results.
These results were anonymously analyzed, and the concerns were uncovered. As electric loads and living habits differ between consumers also the concerns that came up in the interviews have variation. But, in most cases, consumers were worried about losing control of their own lives and to be forced to change their living habits.
Despite the concerns, consumers were also willing to take part in DF if it can, for example, help to stop climate change. And with the known concerns and consumer opinions the DF technology can be improved, and information targeted so that the customers will be willing to take part in the DF.
Figure 1. Demand flexibility working to smooth the consumption peaks
In this research, the concerns of demand flexibility were investigated by a qualitative research. The main concerns according to our study were impact on living comfort, risk of appliance/device breaking, availability of electricity, security of control/data, and profitability of the system. 85,5% of respondents have concerns about demand flexibility. Research results were validated by comparing the results to a similar study and other resources. Based on these points we can say that the concerns of consumers need to be taken into account when implementing demand flexibility. Also, the study showed that demand flexibility is not as familiar as it could be amongst consumers.
This topic is important when thinking about the future electricity system and that’s why this needs to be studied with more respondents. Especially, when there is a concrete idea of how the demand flexibility will be integrated into the power system, the idea’s consumer concerns should be studied separately.
Business aspects of the project
Nowadays, consumer habits are focused around the working hours. This can lead to a high electricity demand when there are no renewable electricity sources available. These demand spikes are in the morning before work and in the evening after the work. If we want to increase the amount of renewable energy in the power system and so slow the climate change, we need to come up with a solution to endorse the usage of electrical devices when there are renewable sources available.
Technology used to shift this consumption is demand flexibility. This technology should be used in great share of consumer households, but customers can think it’s too expensive and hard to control the loads. So, our solution to support the demand flexibility is to bundle the electricity contract and a controlling service. This will benefit the customer and the electricity selling company. Costumers will get easy access to the technology and selling companies can adjust their prices so that they get more profit without increasing the customers electricity bill.
Currently there isn’t this kind of service available on the market and so our product will be the first easy option for households to control their electricity usage. Despite the advantage of being first on the market the product is still quite easily copiable and so we need to get high enough markets share to be able to stay on market. Market size is basically all consumer households in Finland, and we have also option to start offering our solution for industrial customers.
Figure 2. Example controlling devices that we came up. Greenbox 3000 is the master unit which communicates with Greenbox 1000+