Contrary to what the naysayers will tell you, we in South Africa are not unique when it comes to loadshedding. In recent memory these countries have also experienced interruption to their power supply: Pakistan, Nepal (up to 16 hours daily), India (up to 16 hours daily), Zimbabwe (Zimbabwe has had a power shortage since 2007), Ghana (Industries go off for 48 hours and then up for 6 days), Botswana, Bangladesh, Belgium.
The World Bank has reported that by far the biggest loadshedding sufferers are countries in the Middle East and North Africa with an average of 23.5 power outages a month- equivalent to a power cut six days a week – lasting an average of 9.4 hours. South Asian countries are reported as having an average of 17 outages a month each lasting over an hour.
High income countries – Australia, much of Europe, Canada, the US and the UK – hardly suffer at all, with less than one outage a month, lasting less than half an hour.
From the above it is clear that we are not the only sufferers from what is a worldwide problem.
One of the proposed solutions to this is the idea of a distributed power grid fed by a number of sources – traditional (coal, nuclear, gas etc,) and renewable (solar power, wind, biogas etc.).
Big business and government point to the unreliability of a distributed model and worry about how the grid will be paid for and be sustained if individuals all become micro generators for self consumption but still expect to rely on the grid should their local power generation fail (e.g. at night in the case of solar power).
In traditional power generation terms. electricity is not a product that can be easily stored and distributed in times of peak demand. Peak demand is best describes as a period of simultaneous, strong consumer demand. Classic examples of peak demand are when the entire nation is watching Television and, when the adverts come on, all rush to kitchen to put the kettle on to make some tea or open the fridge to get more beer and snacks.
Increasingly with renewable energy coming onto the grid, Peak Demand occurs outside of Peak Production – here we have a situation where renewables, like solar power, generate the most electricity during daylight hours whilst the Peak Demand for electricity occurs from the time people return home from work.
The key to managing this demand is in incentivising people to use electricity outside of Peak Demand times.
Most countries have attempted to do this by introducing Time of Use Tariffs. Under this tariff option in Nelson Mandela Bay there are three different time periods, i.e. Peak, Standard and Off-Peak periods. These time of Use tariffs are also divided into Summer and Winter seasonal tariffs.
Consumers that install Solar Systems in Nelson Mandela Bay are placed on a time of use scale and only benefit from electricity consumed in the same time of use period that electricity was fed back into the grid.
In South Africa we have an Inclining Block Tariff – basically defined as; “The more you use, the more you pay per unit.” In times of high peak Demand when the grid cannot produce enough power consumers are further disciplined by the implementation of loadshedding.
All of the above ‘incentives’ are ‘stick type’ incentives.
The Opposite of Loadshedding:
In a time not too far off in the future we will have many distributed small and micro power generators (like you and the solar panels on your roof) feeding excess power into the grid. This excess power will, to some extent, help stabilise the grid and the prospect of loadshedding.
The BIG question then is – how do we best utilise power generated outside of Peak Demand?
The technology exists to create an energy trading platform with push notifications that will give the consumer real power in the palm of his/her hand. In addition the Internet of Things and innovative Building Management Systems will allow the consumer to take immediate advantage of any power incentive available outside of Peak Demand.
A Practical Example:
- In the not too distant future energy production and sales are decentralised
- We deal with energy companies that trade in renewable energy allowing us to choose a basket of products and even regions to purchase our power from
- Our chosen energy company begins to experience high power production – maybe on an exceptionally sunny day
- That energy company send a push notification saying that for the next 4 hours the price per unit will Halve
- You hop onto your smart phone, communicate with your Building Management System and switch on high energy consumption appliances, decrease the temperature in your fridge and freezer for those hours, stop your solar panels from pumping into the grid and choose to store power in your battery array only, switch on your Electric Vehicle Charger and so on.
And there you have it – an incentive the opposite of loadshedding and one that makes people feel good and in power once again.
The practical building blocks are already in place in South Africa – Companies like Straton Solar can manage, interrogate and diagnose your Solar PV system remotely. Companies like BA Systems can completely automate your building. Municipalities, like the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality, already have a renewable energy and grid tie policy in place. Energy trading companies exist. Similar applications exist – think E-Bay, Uber, Air BNB. What we need is a loosening of the regulatory environment to make this all happen.
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