How could smart grids help us reduce our energy bills?

09 Sep, 17 by Matt Jones

You might have seen recently on the news about rising energy costs and how ‘Smart Grids’ can help with this.

What is a Smart Grid and why we need them?

We are creatures of habit and most average households tend to follow similar patterns of when they use energy. So getting up in the morning and having a shower before work, putting the kettle etc. You might have heard of scare stories around possible ‘blackouts’ due to too much demand being placed on the electricity supply network at peak times e.g. during the 1990 World Cup Semi Final – West Germany v England when England was defeated in a toe-curling penalty shootout, our hearts sunk as we waved goodbye to a tearful Gazza and the gang. Only a nice cup of tea could console the nation. The resulting power surge was the equivalent of 1.12 million kettles being switched on at the same time!

Now, to meet extra energy demand spikes additional energy generators have to be switched on at short notice, unfortunately this is bad for the environment as it’s usually the polluting energy sources that are able to meet this short term demand which are some of the most expensive, like short term diesel generators. This in turn pushes up energy prices for households. Renewable energies, although great for the environment, cannot meet this short term demand in the same way. In the future, more electric vehicles charging at the same time might cause ‘blackouts’ as the grid cannot cope with the extra demand.

So what’s the solution?

The government has recognised the need to cut down on polluting and expensive energy generators that are bad for our air quality and wallets and are investing in Smart Grids instead. Smart Grids aren’t really as complicated as they sound. It’s just a way of making better use of our increasingly renewable energy production and reducing the impact of energy demand spikes in the future caused by new technologies like electric vehicles.

Here’s a short video which explains it all.

What does this mean for me?

Well, first off you can become a smarter household that is ready for the benefits of the Smart Grid by having a Smart Meter installed. This will enable you to better monitor your energy use and be ready to make savings that could be achieved through the introduction of new time-of-use tariffs – where energy suppliers will provide incentives in the form of reduced bills if you are able to change the time at which you use energy using smart home technology e.g. you will be able to set your dishwasher to come on when energy is cheapest.

In Bristol, we are trialling new technologies to help get our communities ready for the future where they can benefit from lower energy bills by automatically timing appliance to turn on/ off when energy is cheapest, or when your solar panels are producing enough energy to power your appliances. This will be more important in the future as energy prices continue to rise putting greater strain on household bills. We will be recruiting participant households in autumn 2017 so get in touch by completing our expression of interest form if you’d like to find out more…