Insights / Use flexible energy consumption to your advantage

How businesses should use flexible energy consumption to their advantage

5th July 2022

The UK's energy mix is transforming. 2020 was a record-breaking year for renewables, with 2021 following closely, and progress hasn’t stopped there. The latest British Energy Security Strategy outlays new commitments to supercharge clean energy which could see 95% of Great Britain’s electricity set to be low carbon by 2030.

We’re making huge strides towards creating a greener energy industry. At the same time, businesses are capitalising on the growing renewables market by changing their operational behaviour and making huge cost savings in the process.

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Renewable generation isn’t without its challenges, though. For example, what do we rely on when the sun isn’t shining, and the wind isn’t blowing?

Dispatchable renewable power – that is generation that can be turned on and off, like sustainable biomass – is one solution to this problem. But that applies to generators. So, what can we do to tackle the issue as consumers and business decision makers?

The answer? We become more flexible with our usage.

Optimising your electricity usage allows that and much more. Some businesses are already ahead of the curve in making the most of the data available, and they’re saving both money and our planet. In fact, research from the Carbon Trust found that a fully flexible energy system could deliver billions of pounds of net savings every year by 2050.

So, how can you use that optimisation to your organisation’s advantage and increase both your cost savings and sustainability credentials?

How energy optimisation works

There’s a lot more to how you use your energy than total consumption over a whole year. Energy providers can view half hourly electricity data for businesses, which in turn allows them to identify areas of potential flexibility.

That’s because not every electron is worth the same amount depending on where you are and when you’re using it. Prices fluctuate depending on how much renewable energy is being generated at one time, and how much energy is being used across the country.

Optimisation is only possible once a provider has analysed your electric machinery, equipment, and other assets, reviewed your operations and energy usage, and identified areas of potential flexibility. The result? You’ll be able to reduce the unit cost of the power you consume for the duration of your energy contract.

Not only that, but as most renewable sources provide electricity intermittently, Demand flexibility will help the UK energy industry go green by enabling new renewable generation. Alongside this, many grid operator schemes and mechanisms have evolved to encourage demand side involvement, especially for those deploying behind-the-meter batteries. One example is National Grid ESO Dynamic Containment. Launched in 2020, it aims to meet our most immediate need for faster-acting frequency response.

At Drax, we’re using that half hourly data to tap into the differential of high to low consumption. We’re asking:

  • When can surplus machines be turned down or off?
  • What are the guaranteed savings we can offer the business as a result of this data analysis?

This data is already possessed by businesses and is readily available to suppliers. Just a little extra input from you can help your energy partner give you the information you need to harness flexibility and take advantage of numerous value streams. For a small amount of effort, that’s a big reward.

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The benefits of optimising energy usage

Throughout the past year, we’ve learned that flexibility is vital. Yearly consumption is no longer the be all and end all, and so it’s time for large power users to get comfortable with flexibility. Going forward, energy usage is more likely to be inconsistent as flexible working has become the norm, with offices operating at reduced capacity, putting less demand on the grid. And why would you want to be using more electricity than you need?

A major advantage of improved energy efficiency is the positive impact on your sustainability credentials. Not only will energy optimisation allow you to hit Scope requirements, but investors and the board will see you’re going above and beyond.

While energy efficiency is a key driver for organisations on the road to carbon neutrality, the flexibility provided by optimising your usage offers financial rewards too. That’s because it gives businesses the ability to determine whether to switch on machines or turn up usage when electricity is at its cheapest. And, similarly, whether it’s possible to turn machines down or off when prices peak.

At the heart of all of this is our journey to net zero. As a nation, and a planet, we’re slowly becoming greener, but this transition can be accelerated using technology. That includes the technology that allows us to analyse energy usage. Optimising that usage and working with a greater degree of flexibility helps us to avoid the most carbon intensive generation, lessening demand for fossil fuels. And, in the long run, our planet will be much better off for it.

Get in touch to find out how Drax can help your organisation with its flexible energy consumption strategy.

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