Category: Energy Management

METER – insights into the timing and flexibility of electricity usage

METER is a national research project to understand what we use electricity for. And anyone can take part.


This study asks thousands of UK households to submit a one day record of their activities. During this day their electricity use is also measured minute by minute.

The combination of activity and electricity data can gives valuable insights into the timing and flexibility of electricity. METER data is intended to help with the development of new approaches to reduce demand at critical times, while avoiding inconvenience for users. METER will test different forms of incentives and interventions to establish an evidence base for load shifting against a statistically robust baseline.

This becomes especially important when trying to make better use of variable renewable sources of electricity. By identifying a load shifting potential of only 1kW (half the power of a washing machine) in 1% of UK households, the national cost saving could easily exceed a quarter of a billion pounds.

The scale of the project is made possible by the innovative use of smart phones.

Here is an example of my (Peter Bates) household’s energy usage on 21/22 September 2016. (Note we do have Solar PV and did not use the washing machine that day). You can clearly see the peak usage during the cooking of the evening meal.


More information on the METER Project and take part in the research.


Get the latest METER Project newsletter Autumn 2016

Some countries reach the “golden goal” of grid parity for solar electricity

According to Bloomberg several countries that have high electricity prices have already reached the “golden goal” of grid parity. This means putting solar modules on the roof to replace electricity purchased from the grid is a good investment for consumers. This includes Germany, Denmark, Portugal, Spain and Australia. Brazil is also above the 6% level, but consumers may require higher returns on investment in a developing economy.

Japan, France, Greece and Turkey are expected to be there by 2015, and by 2020 even the US average price will high enough to justify investment, even without the 30 percent investment tax credit subsidy.

An interactive version of this chart can be found on the Bloomberg site.

My comment on the UK situation: The UK having relatively lower electricity costs than other countries is likely to be similar to the US, but there are wide regional variations in the cost of electricity from the grid and as it is a very competitive market variations depending on usage so some consumers might reach the golden goal earlier than others. In addition, the UK government is also being fairly rigorous in legislating for carbon emission reductions that could also have an impact upon the time when grid parity is reached.

Localisation is also another interesting factor. Location householders could club together to get good deals on Solar PV installation as well as adopt collective bargaining techniques to buy electricity from the grid at a lower price in the same way as a number of communities are clubbing together to buy cheaper oil. The development of Community Energy Companies is also yet another factor.


English National Heat Map Launched

The National Heat Map was commissioned by the Department of Energy and Climate Change and created by The Centre for Sustainable Energy. The purpose of the Map is to support planning and deployment of local low-carbon energy projects in England. It aims to achieve this by providing publicly accessible high-resolution web-based maps of heat demand by area.

The heat map in split-screen mode, showing total heat demand in Hereford (the 'hotspot' is a public swimming pool)

The heat map is primarily intended to help identify locations where heat distribution is most likely to be beneficial and economic. It is important to note that it should be used as a tool for prioritising locations for more detailed investigation – and not as a tool for designing heat networks directly or for querying energy bills.

Residential heat demand over South Manchester. Note the absence of data for the industrial estate in the centre of the image

With the exception of public buildings, the heat map was produced entirely without access to the meter readings or energy bills of individual premises. As a result it contains no personal information whatsoever. This means that once a location has been established as having potential, it will always be necessary to obtain directly metered data on the relevant sites. With the exception of public buildings, the maps are based on data that has been modelled down to an individual address level, but none of the information used in any way constitutes personal data.

Commercial and government heat demand in Portsmouth

This approach to modelling allows aggregation of results upwards without losing accuracy, whilst preserving the ability to drill down to finer scales at chosen locations. At high map zoom levels the outputs are at sufficiently fine scales to allow users to identify individual buildings and groups of buildings which could benefit from heat distribution installations, taking account of the relative accuracy of modelled data.

Individual features like CHP plants and thermal power stations can be identified. Here, the CHP station at Boots' HQ in Beeston, Nottingham is flagged

The National Heat Map is a free and publicly accessible resource providing high-resolution maps of heat demand across England.

It aims to help local authorities, community groups and other users identify locations where heat distribution projects are most likely to make a difference – by cutting carbon emissions and reducing heating costs.

The heat map is based on modelled estimates of annual heat demand at every address in England, and is extremely detailed as a result.

This detail allows users to investigate energy use patterns at the level of individual buildings and streets: exactly what’s needed to support the development of local, low-carbon decentralised energy projects across the country.

Once a potential opportunity has been identified using the heat map, the next step is to approach local stakeholders to develop interest in the project, and to obtain directly metered heat demand data for use in a feasibility study.

About the National Heat Map – DECC

Launch of National Heat Map – CSE

Other articles:-

DECC Blog – Putting Low Carbon Heating on the map

Smart meter data could transform energy management

Last year the UK Government began consulting on plans for the roll-out of smart meters across the country, with the aim of reducing domestic and commercial energy use. By 2020, these meters will replace all existing electricity and gas meters, providing a means of automatically recording and communicating energy consumption data to the energy supplier.

About 50% of the country’s electricity demand is currently based on meter readings which are taken, on average, every six months – but these readings provide no information about how the electricity is being used, i.e. the times of days. However, the data that the smart meters can provide has the potential to transform the way in which the electricity system as a whole operates, serves its customers and invests in new infrastructure. The electricity industry is reliant on balancing electricity generation and demand – and thus being able to predict peak-demand periods to avoid distribution network failures.

Information from smart meters could prove invaluable to the industry in allowing it to better understand peak demand, how that peak changes over time, what the daily demand is in half-hourly intervals and over a year, and what the changes in the levels and timing of demand are.

The Centre for Sustainable Energy (CSE) is leading  project to extract, analyse and present this datain a way that can be done promptly and cost-effectively It is part-funded by the Technology Strategy Board through their ‘Harnessing Large and Diverse Sources of Data’ competition for research and development funding and in partnership between CSE, Western Power Distribution, Scottish and Southern Energy, and the University of Bristol and will run until the end of 2012.

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