Scotland could avoid the need to build new fossil-fuel power stations and more rapidly cut climate emissions if political parties committed to a national strategy to help businesses and consumers reduce and manage their demand for electricity,
According Edinburgh-based Flexitricity and WWF Scotland, such a strategy must go beyond energy-efficiency, and include measures to increasingly tap into the existing “invisible” power network of industrial, commercial and public-sector organisations.
The organisations said that so-called ‘demand response’ measures would allow large energy users such as universities, banks, supermarkets and datacentres to act as “virtual power plants.”
By voluntarily lowering their demand for electricity, these businesses and organisations help avoid the need to turn on conventional power stations, and they are paid for providing this important service.
Gina Hanrahan, Climate and Policy Officer at WWF Scotland, explained: “It’s far cheaper to reduce our electricity demand than it is to build new power stations that are only used for short periods of time.
“If we want to cut consumer bills and lower climate emissions, then demand-reduction must be a central part of any future energy strategy. Scotland’s political parties need to commit to a national strategy to help consumers and businesses cut their demand for electricity by at least 1% a year to 2030.
“By using “smart grid” technology to temporarily lower the electricity consumption – unnoticeably – at hundreds of smaller locations we can avoid the need to switch on massive polluting fossil fuel power stations”.
Alastair Martin, Chief Strategy Officer of Flexitricity – Britain’s biggest ‘demand-response’ company – added: “We used to think of electricity purely in terms of nuclear, coal and gas.
“It’s now time to think of renewables, energy efficiency and demand response – and the technology needed to create a low-carbon, low-cost and secure electricity future is already there.
“Scotland is already the European leader in electricity demand-response. By committing to a comprehensive strategy to reduce energy demand, Scotland can increase its competitiveness while making best use of its indigenous renewable resources and alleviating fuel poverty.”
Dr. Martin also warned that the ‘new energy revolution’ is already happening ‘under the noses of the ‘Big Six’ – the vertically-integrated post-privatisation legacy gas and electricity supply companies.
He said: To survive, utilities must now turn themselves into customer service organisations. It’s adapt or die, and the customers will decide which fate awaits each utility.”