One unexpected bonus from the current coronavirus lockdown in the UK is that some domestic electricity consumers will be paid to use electricity during the day. The reason is twofold, firstly the current breezy weather is producing a surge in wind power. Second, the country’s energy demand has fallen by around 10% due to the shutdown of pubs, restaurants, companies and factories across the country. This has led to the lowest electricity market prices in 10 years.
On Sunday morning (5 April 2020), windfarms generated 40% of electricity with solar farms another 20%. Only 15% was from fossil fuel plants with the balance being nuclear and hydro.
That a 10% fall in electricity demand can drastically reduce the use of fossil fuels gives hope that carbon emissions can be significantly reduced. A 10% reduction in energy use is easily achieved in industry. Time after time our own EU Energy Efficiency Directive Audits (ESO in the UK, EAS in Ireland) have identified practical and cost-effective energy savings in excess of 10%.
Incentives to Waste Energy
However, one issue needs to be addressed urgently. If domestic customers are being paid to consume electricity, where is the incentive to use energy wisely? Why bother turning off that light if you are being paid to keep it on. Would it not be better to store the surplus electricity, perhaps by generating hydrogen and injecting it into the natural gas grid. We do need to come up with better ideas than paying consumers to use electricity.
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