Alternate current, intelligent current
1st April, 2009
Instead of spikes in demand and coal-fired solutions, fridges and washing machines may soon be available that can regulate their own energy usage.
'What do you think was happening here?’ Jon Fenn, electricity operations manager for National Grid, is standing pointing at a jagged graph projected on to the wall of his ofice in the grid’s electricity control centre in Berkshire.
The graph shows the nation’s total electricity demand during the first round 2006 World Cup match between England and Sweden. Demand steadily falls throughout the first half, followed by a sudden spike at half-time, followed by another steady fall, then another spike and a plateau at the end of the match. Fenn is pointing to the lowest point of demand, right at the end of the game’s first half.
‘What do you think we were looking for?’ he asks?
I look blank. ‘We were looking to see if there was going to be any extra time played,’ he explains patiently.
For the controllers who staff the National Grid’s control room 24 hours a day, extra time in a national football match means something very significant. They are waiting for hundreds of thousands of kettles to be boiled at half-time, countless fridge doors to be opened and a multitude of kitchen lights to be flicked on. At half-time in 2006, electricity demand soared by...
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