Skip to main content

Smarter energy use by industry could cut electricity demand by 75% – University of Reading

Show access keys

Smarter energy use by industry could cut electricity demand by 75%

Release Date 04 June 2013

As the Government debates the UK Energy Bill, new research has found that turning down non-essential services, such as heating, air-conditioning and pumping equipment, at times of peak electricity demand could play a far greater role in helping the UK achieve future energy security.

The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Reading working with KiWi Power, found that electricity demand from some industry sites, including telecommunications centres, could be reduced by more than 75% at times of peak load on the national grid. In many cases this was because businesses switched from metered electricity to stand-by diesel generators but in some of the sites studied, particularly in the hotel sector, a genuine reduction of nearly 25% occurred. This was achieved through the turn-down of air-conditioning and heating and lighting and did not impact or discomfort customers. 

The study also found that these measures will also reduce the need for additional power stations and keep down climate damaging carbon dioxide emissions. 

The results of the study are particularly pertinent as current proposals in the Government's Energy Bill may encourage investment in extra electricity generation capacity, such as expensive and polluting power stations and stand-by generators, rather than encourage consumers to reduce electricity demand. 

Researchers from the University's School of Construction Management and Engineering used half-hourly meter readings, supplied by KiWi Power, from 176 non-domestic sites including warehouses, hotels, offices and telecommunication centres. The data, drawn from businesses already using KiWi Power's demand response services, were used to investigate the potential for reducing electricity use or shifting use to times of the day when electricity demand on the national grid is lower.

Jacopo Torriti, from the School of Construction Management and Engineering and lead researcher on the project, said: "Encouraging business to lower their electricity usage at times of peak demand on the national grid would reduce the need for new power stations and help keep the nation's lights on in the future. But it's less clear whether the Government's Energy Bill will really encourage such demand turn down.  Working with KiWi Power has been vital for the provision of data and industry expertise in the complex world of energy demand resources."

Yoav Zingher, director and co-founder of KiWi Power commented: "This research from the University of Reading shows the clear potential to reduce energy demand by encouraging businesses to turn down non-essential power for short periods of time and that's a far more environmentally friendly option than building more power stations, and will reduce peaking power issues as the grid becomes increasingly congested."

The study also found that if businesses are given more warning (four hours or more) of the need to reduce their electricity use, then reductions in demand could be doubled in some cases. One example from the study showed that, given sufficient warning, warehouses could pre-load their fridges and build up cooling, which would allow fridges to be safely turned down and so lower electricity use when the grid needs it.

Rewarding industry to reduce their demand at critical times could make a significant contribution to the UK electricity ‘capacity market' being proposed in the Government's Energy Bill the study concluded. Under a ‘capacity market' contracts will be awarded to supply electricity (or reduce demand) at times of peak demand on the grid to help ease the potential electricity shortage as electrified transport increases and aging fossil-fuel power stations are taken off-line. 

However, the study found that a failure to explicitly cater for demand characteristics (e.g. the need for longer warning periods) in the policy development, could lead to an inadvertent promotion of standby generation, such as diesel generators, rather than genuine demand turn down.


Notes to editors:


1.       The University of Reading's School of Construction Management and Engineering is a world leader in teaching and research about the management, design and economics of engineered technologies, primarily in within the built environment and infrastructure sectors. Its global reputation for innovation, focused on real-world problems facing the management of the built environment, attracts academics, students and industry professionals of the highest calibre. It has strong links to industry, professional institutions and governments around the world and attained a top international rating of 5 in the most recent Research Assessment Exercise.


2.       KiWi Power was co-founded by Yoav Zingher and Ziko Abram in 2009. KiWi is a smart grid company that specialises in managing the demand side of energy consumption for large industrial and commercial consumers of electricity and for government regulators. The technical term is demand response.  KiWi Power operates in the UK in England, Wales & Scotland supplying Demand Side Management services to National Grid. National Grid pays for these demand reductions, thereby allowing participating companies to generate new recurring revenue streams and reduce their carbon footprint.

3.       A UK "capacity market"  is one of the electricity market reforms proposed in the Government's Energy Bill to help balance future electricity supply and demand while reducing climate damaging greenhouse gas emissions. A Capacity Market would reward the ability to provide electricity at critical times of system stress by auctioning contracts to electricity suppliers to provide electricity when supply is short.  A Capacity Market would provide a financial incentive for investment in electricity generation. However, generation is not the only option. Reducing electricity demand at these times (demand response) could also help, if implemented fairly and sensibly into the Electricity Market Reform policy. To date, less attention in the market design has been given to demand response and the extent to which it might contribute to a capacity market.

4.       The Energy Bill, which is currently in progress through Parliament, sets out reforms aiming to deal with three major areas affecting electricity in the UK:

  • Security of supply with a diverse range of energy sources: gas, renewable, nuclear, carbon capture - in sufficient quantity to minimise the risk of shortages
  • Meeting the challenge of climate change by investing in low-carbon technologies
  • Affordable electricity to individual and industrial consumers, maximising benefits and minimising costs of the change.

5.       There is no immediate threat to security of electricity supply in the UK. At the end of 2010, the UK had a total of 83GW of electricity generating capacity connected to the high voltage transmission network, and peak demand was 61GW. However there is a risk to security of electricity supplies in the future, as around a fifth of existing capacity is expected to close over the next decade and more intermittent (wind) and less flexible (nuclear) generation may be built to replace it.

We use Javascript to improve your experience on, but it looks like yours is turned off. Everything will still work, but it is even more beautiful with Javascript in action. Find out more about why and how to turn it back on here.
We also use cookies to improve your time on the site, for more information please see our cookie policy.