“Washing day is here!”

Round our way there always used to be knocks on the door from folk selling pegs, and there was always laundry that needed putting out on the line, and inevitably, bringing in when it rained.

Maybe those were simpler times, but if you dry your laundry outside, you have a keener sense of the weather. In my view, that’s something that we could really do with learning afresh. With an ever-increasing proportion of our electrical power being dependent on the weather, it’s not sufficient only to have a “smart meter” if the ways we are attuned to use power aren’t “smart”.

Whilst some hopes for the benefits of smart meters revolve around awareness driving residents of a home to trim their own patterns of use, the ability to administer and regulate energy use over a variety of time-scales is also key. Over short time-scales, the ability to modulate use of appliances such as refrigerators, heaters and pumps, and in larger buildings, lifts and escalators can assist with frequency regulation on the grid, whilst over longer (diurnal, nocturnal or multi-day) time-scales, there are some appliances which are highly dependent on habit, and user-initiated starts. Most of these appliances in domestic settings are for washing – dishwashers, power-showers, washing machines and clothes dryers.

If there isn’t a wash ready to be done, of course it makes little difference, so it is critical that such behaviours are understood better. It is also important that the population are educated more about the weather-dependence of power generation.

There have been periods over the past five years where the mix of generating sources supplied to the UK grid, excluding inter-connectors, has been provided by 80% non fossil fuel (including nuclear). As the government recently brought forward by 1 year, the closure of the final UK coal power plants, it is becoming clearer, that there will be periods in the next few years when there will be zero domestic fossil generated power supplying the UK grid. Yet, despite this glut at some times, there will also be others periods when very little generation is supplied by renewable sources due to intermittency.

One way I can see to do this would be make the link between energy generation and the weather. Us Brits already obsess over it, so why not leverage this? We are also world-leaders in meteorology and predicting the weather. As well as providing the owners of the generating assets powerful information to help move, monitor, schedule and service their wind turbines and solar arrays, the forecasting ability if of enormous value to energy users. In the past, this was just to know whether to peg the washing out or take it in, but in the future it will also help schedule a number of tasks and activities, and in a world of flexible working that applies even more.

As well as showing the weather forecast after the news, we should also be showcasing the energy forecast. Showing the mix generated over the past day would also highlight the variability seen over days, weeks and months. The data is already available to do this. Let’s put it on TV!


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