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Lo 08

Smart thinking about power

Published on 12/10/2016
Image full gdms
Now that Stormont has put smart metering on the long finger, is there another way for consumers to catch up with the rest of the UK, help manage demand for electricity more efficiently and most importantly get rewarded for their co-operation?

The solution may well lie in a system being developed by a company across the water. 

In a world first, Reactive Technologies has been able to send messages through the entire GB electricity network. This breakthrough paves the way for homes and business without smart meters to play their part in regulating electricity consumption in a more economic manner,

The company’s unique Grid Data and Measurement System (GDMS) works by offering the scope to power up or down equipment remotely depending on whether electricity is plentiful or in high demand. It can also be used simply to help balance the electricity system.

The communication system devised by the firm does not use the internet. Any device anywhere connected by a smart plug into the mains can be overseen and controlled.

 An example shows how useful the GDMS could prove to be.

A few days ago at 7 pm on October 8 the wholesale price of power here rose to over £670 a MWh. That equates to 67 pence per unit of electricity and that’s before network charges and other fees and levies are aded on. 

Currently the domestic or typical small business customer has no easy way of helping the network to curb demand peaks and thus avoid eye watering price spikes. The GDMS system would enable consumers to play their part in dampening down demand by allowing their equipment to be switched down for a period. It would also, by the way, offer the chance to switch on equipment, at night say, when cheap renewable sources are available. 

But why would anyone allow this level of interference in their electricity usage? A compensatory arrangement would have to be devised to reward those who were prepared to respond to the needs of the network. Large businesses already have the ability to take advantage of so called demand response services. The GDMS technology would place that power in the hands of households and small firms.

And for the technical minded who are interested in how all of this works, RT have provided a not too dense explanation

Connected devices send and receive data across the electricity network through minute and subtle changes made to the grid frequency by modulating the power consumption of transmitting devices. These ‘on’ and ‘off’ or frequency changes create a unique code. Receivers, embedded in the plugs of devices, such as freezers, hot water tanks and air conditioning equipment, are programmed to detect these frequency changes. Receiving devices then identify and decode the messages, which automatically tell the device to carry out a particular instruction, for example, to tell the device to take action such as turn down or turn off according to a schedule, or based on grid frequency changes.

Reactive Technologies worked in partnership with energy companies SSE and National Grid to demonstrate its new system. Cordi O’Hara of National Grid said: “…we are keen to support innovative products like this one that can bring a real benefit for customers. …..It represents another step forward in the development of the smart grid technologies that are going to play an increasingly important role in the energy systems of the future.”

SSE commented: “The challenges we are dealing with in the energy sector are driving the need for new perspectives and transformative technologies. Innovation milestones, such as Reactive’s GDMS, will help keep the lights on and offer significant cost savings.”

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