Power People: what are we doing with all that energy?

Power People: what are we doing with all that energy?


We all lead our own lives but together at
certain times of day and certain times of year our demand for energy peaks. And working
out how best to meet the ups and downs of our energy needs presents a growing challenge
as we move towards a future powered by greener cleaner sources. Because as we reduce our
dependence on fossil fuels replacing our conventional power stations with wind farms and solar panels
our energy supply will become less able to respond to changes in demand. We can’t ask
the wind to blow harder or the sun to shine more brightly whenever demand rises so how
can we ensure that the grid of the future will be able to cope these ups and downs?
Should we invest in energy storage so that the energy generated by renewables can be
used at a later time. Should we keep our dirty power stations on standby if the grid needs
a boost? And at what cost? Researchers at the University of Oxford are wondering whether
we, the energy users, could help them solve this conundrum. Is it possible that we could
change our habits enough to shift our energy usage away from times when the system struggles?
To work it out they need to find out what we actually do with all that energy during
peak demand. Are we doing time-bound tasks like making dinner. Or are we hoovering, doing
the laundry or starting the dishwasher? Tasks that you might not mind doing later? And what
would help you make that change? The promise of lower bills? Knowing your usage is less
likely to call on those dirty power stations? Or could smart appliances, set to operate
in off-peak hours, be the answer? You could help Oxford’s researchers find out more about
how we use energy. This will contribute to a cheaper, more reliable and cleaner energy
future. To find out how visit the METER project at energy-use.org. And for more about the
science of energy usage visit oxfordsparks.ox.ac.uk, follow us on Twitter, and like our Facebook
page.

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