When many Aussies woke up this morning they probably didn’t want to get out of bed. That is, they didn’t want to leave the comfort of their air conditioned homes.
The mercury is already on the rise and tipped to reach sweltering highs – over 40°C in Melbourne, Adelaide and Canberra.
Over the next few days the system that delivers our electricity, the grid, will be put under enormous strain. The grid basically refers to the infrastructure and companies that generate electricity and deliver it to your door. It may sound straightforward but for the few days of the year when peak demand kicks in, the pressure on the grid can be problematic. With a heat wave moving across most of Australia these next few days, many of the 75 per cent of households with air conditioners will switch them on today. That alone will about double the average electricity demand.
So what, you say? I pay my electricity bills. Well this is where it gets interesting. The peaks and troughs of electricity demand can actually mean higher electricity prices. This is because money is invested into grid infrastructure so that it can handle a peak demand scenario that may or may not happen. So how can we take the load off the grid during these times?
One way is known as cost reflective pricing. This is where the price of electricity is adjusted at different times of the day to encourage people to move their consumption away from peak periods.
Would you reconsider running that load of washing at 8am if you knew it would cost half the price at 2pm?
And that’s not the only change we may see. Already one in seven Australian homes has solar panels on its roof, giving us one of the highest rates of distributed generation of electricity in the world. Some of the electricity generated on these roofs is put back into the grid for redistribution, taking some pressure off grid infrastructure.
But wait, there’s more. There’s Opticool – smart software developed by us and commercialised by Building IQ that monitors and adjusts conditions in a building based on live data (like weather and personal comfort levels). This clever technology has reduced energy consumption at New York’s Rockefeller Centre by about 12 per cent and, more impressively, reduced the building’s peak energy demand by nearly 30 per cent. Imagine never having to complain about your office temperature ever again.
Cost reflective pricing, distributed generation and intelligent buildings – all of them possibilities for our electricity future. As to the heat wave that’s on our door step, well, we’ll just have to rely on the poor old electricity grid.
Now pass me that air con remote.
Source: CSIRO. Reproduced with permission