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Is it time for a national education program on flexible energy?

It saddens me when I hear people, not involved in the utility industry, talk about demand response (DR) as an inconvenience to customers.  It frustrates me when people within the utility industry tell the same story and claim DR will deliver no value.

I believe, here in Australia, it’s time for a national education program to create a more informed energy consumer.  We need a campaign that cuts through the complexity and negative spin that many in our industry create.

A well designed and executed demand response program works.  It will result in helping to deliver a reliable supply of energy at reduced rates and with lower impact on the environment as compared to just building more capacity.  If we educate customers as to why this is important and what’s in it for them, they will come on board.  If we make it clear they have the choice to opt-in, or opt-out, you kill any concerns that they feel they are giving up control.  Hundreds of programs around the world show it works.  You don’t even have to look that far, our friends in Queensland have been successfully running demand response for years with consumer’s air conditioners.

We need to move away from creating unnecessary fear and uncertainty in the community, just because it is something we don’t understand or don’t believe in.  I respect some consumers will have no interest in changing their energy usage for a few hours a year in return for a small financial reward.   However, many will jump at the opportunity.

With the right awareness, people will soon realise that they will be rewarded with positive experiences.  I have seen examples where people bring the family together during demand response events and turn off the Air Conditioners in all other rooms in the house.  They pop out for dinner with the family, or they go and visit friends.   Demand Response is not about making yourself uncomfortable.  It's about making some smart decisions to be flexible when you consume energy, even for just a few hours a year.  In return, you get an immediate financial reward, and longer term you are helping place downward pressure on rates.

Let’s credit people’s intelligence.  If they understood why demand response is important, and we helped give them examples of how they can help, they would jump on board.

Is it time for a national education program for consumers to understand the value of Flexible Energy and let them make the choice for themselves?




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Wayne Pales's picture

Thank Wayne for the Post!

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George Mizzell, Jr.'s picture
George Mizzell, Jr. on Oct 19, 2017 5:15 am GMT

I think global education might be more appropriate.  It is amazing at the basic lack of fundamental physics and chemistry that permeates society at every level.  Just as an example - I remember one irate customer in the 1980s complaining at our local power company that I worked at, during a significant ice storm.  He had lost power and had been out for a couple of days and was ranting and raving that he was not going to pay for ANY power during the time his power was off.   hmmmm, let that soak in.

Every article the media runs about the environment highlights a power plant COOLING TOWER with all the billowing smoke and headlines it like "Power Industry Fights Pollution Control" without ever telling anyone that the billowing clouds are merely WATER - pure condensation.  Of course the writer never mentions that the stack standing nearby is completely transparent - that is where the emissions come out.:)  Yes, a little education could go a long way.

Wayne Pales's picture
Wayne Pales on Oct 25, 2017 11:06 pm GMT

I could not agree more.  When I was living in Hong Kong I remember someone telling me they run their AirCon all day as an 'Air Filter'.  Another person had no idea about the connection between their consumption behaviour and the need to generate electricity at the time of demand.  

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