Utility Week

UTILITY Week 2nd September 2016

Utility Week - authoritative, impartial and essential reading for senior people within utilities, regulators and government

Issue link: https://fhpublishing.uberflip.com/i/720954

Contents of this Issue


Page 27 of 31

28 | 2ND - 8TH SEPTEMBER 2016 | UTILITY WEEK Markets & Trading Market view A ccording to Cordi O'Hara, director of system operation at National Grid, speaking to Utility Week in June: "[The narrative around DSR] needs to change from one of energy crisis to one of energy opportu- nity – a new system with new sources of flex- ibility. We must change that narrative or we won't realise the full potential." Earlier this year in its report on the capac- ity market, Incapacitated, the IPPR worried: "There may be some political aversion to relying too heavily on demand response due to a spurious association with the 'three-day week' of 1974 … until that difference is widely understood, there will remain a danger that demand management will not achieve its full potential." Do you see a pattern? Demand-side response (DSR) is one of the most promising tools for balancing supply and demand on the electricity grid. Essen- tially, the premise is that to match supply and demand, you get power users to reduce consumption, rather than ramp up gen- eration. There are many different schemes (though National Grid recently cancelled one of them for this winter) and it can get quite complex, but that's the nub of it. DSR offers myriad benefits. It means fewer big power stations sitting idle waiting to meet surges in demand. It means commer- cial benefits for businesses and consumers (through energy saved and financial incen- tives). And it is usually green: the cleanest kilowatt is the one you don't produce. One would think: "Fantastic, where do I join the queue?" Only there isn't a queue, or at least not as much of one as you would expect. Progress has been slow, and we lag behind the US here. But why? Is it because the technology isn't there yet? No, there are scores of successful applications and it is already a competitive market. Is it a policy issue? Perhaps partially, but DSR providers are working through a number of National Grid schemes already, so they are not barred entry by policymakers. The comments from O'Hara and the IPPR both point to a common problem, one that resonates particularly for communications professionals in the sector. The story is all wrong. O'Hara worries that DSR is too deeply associated with crisis, with balancing the grid when we are in danger of running out of juice. The IPPR's concern that DSR is still haunted by the obdurate spectre of the three- day working week taps into a similar vein. Being associated with crises is not all bad. Superman was pretty popular despite only showing up when things were decidedly pear-shaped. But it means that the wealth of everyday positive opportunities offered by DSR are not part of the conversation and, therefore, of investment decisions. DSR needs to tell a better story by re framing the debate. Companies need to stop talking about a magic gigawatt figure that denotes "safe" and how we can get there. Stop the talk about capacity gaps. Talk about something else instead. For example, a household budget. To balance the books you either need to increase income (a second job, overtime, a payday loan) or decrease expenditure (switch supermarket, a more efficient car, consolidate your credit card debt). It is immediately clear that the quickest and most efficient method is to find ways to spend less. People will intuit that this is not just an emergency measure, but everyday best practice. Advocates of DSR also need to think about the content. Are you communicating clearly? Is your language couched in crisis terminology? Are you putting content out there – written, visual or audio – that helps you reframe the debate? As an example, picture a set of kitchen scales. If one side is weighed down, either remove some weight from that side or add weight to the other. It is immediately understandable (and highly shareable) visual content, and the most cat- astrophic implied crisis is one of incorrect cake mix ratios. Admittedly, crisis stories sell papers, and journalists are going to want to talk to you more when something goes wrong. That is fine: your crisis services are still invalu- able. But what other stories can you plug into? Have you done something impressive enough to create one? The best strategy and media relations people will make sure you are not missing out in the papers and trade magazines, and help you tell your own story via social and owned media too. Match the message and the content with the media route that will best reach your audience. And don't forget the internet search. You know your services crop up on Google when people search for demand management or commercial energy, but what about sustain- able energy? Or cleantech? Or emissions reductions? Is DSR appearing at the top table of these conversations? Maybe it should be. None of which is to say that technological improvement and a benign policy environ- ment are not vital for the DSR industry. The IPPR report makes some interesting sugges- tions on how the capacity market can be more supportive, for example. But the fact is that DSR needs to invest in better stories, not just better systems. Chris Bowman, energy communications specialist, Aspectus DSR needs a better story Demand-side response should be sold to the public as a good way of making money and being environmentally responsible – not as a way of averting a capacity crisis. Chris Bowman explains why. TYPES OF DSR SOURCE: NATIONAL GRID 0s 1s 2s 10s 30s 2m 5m 15m 30m 4h Positive Negative Reserve Fast reserve Secondary response Primary Enhanced response High response Negative reserve

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of Utility Week - UTILITY Week 2nd September 2016