Decarbonization, the onward march of digital and companies’ demand for individual solutions to their energy needs all point to the vital role different technological solutions play in ensuring that flexibility is hardwired into the systems delivering the power the modern economy relies on.
Companies’ ability to be flexible about when they draw power from the grid offers an opportunity that can be monetized. Some also have the ability to supply energy to the grid in certain circumstances, representing another opportunity that grid operators are willing to pay to exploit. This is a trade-off – users’ flexibility helps liberate operators from the need to bring costly new capacity online and can compensate for variations in availability stemming from the role of the weather in generating energy from renewable sources.
The technologies enabling this flexibility loosely form three groups. There are the straight demand response programs; generation and optimization programs; as well as generator upgrades. Savings and revenue benefits generated by one group can be fed into the next to amplify the gains through improved energy management software, audits, assessments, upgrades to equipment leading to lower costs and better performance, among much else.
Demand response programs pay major users to reduce consumption when necessary to maintain network stability and reliability. The service enables clients to respond to peaks in either the supply or demand for electricity, allowing a more efficient use of infrastructure and resources. Given that by 2050 about 79% of total energy produced is forecast to come from green sources that are affected by the vagaries of the climate, this is of growing importance.
Added to that, participants receive so-called availability payments, in effect a retainer paid for being on call to reduce consumption. And there’s another benefit – depending on the program, companies taking part receive some period of advance notice of imminent issues with the grid, giving them time to prepare for a black- or brownout.