Prosumers and Energy: How Active Comsumers will Decide the Future of Energy Use

More and more solar panels and wind turbines are appearing on private rooftops and in backyards. They often belong to a consumer segment that will play a crucial role in the future of electricy production and use. The so-called prosumers and energy will be joined at the hip.

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To watch the grass grow, paint dry, or an electric car charge its battery. Three possible candidates for the prize as the most boring hobby imaginable. However, that does not have to be the case. At least not for the last of the three candidates.

The transition to flexible electricity prices and the integration of more electricity from renewable energy sources means that you, as a consumer, have better options for lowering both environmental costs and your electricity bill by timing consumption correctly.

If part of the electricity production occurs on your premises, the potential benefits can be even more significant.

More and more people worldwide are doing this, making them part of the so-called prosumer segment of consumers. A group that will play a crucial role in the electricity grid and production of the future. Without the right solutions, the rise in prosumers may inadvertently end up with diggers churning up pavements and road surfaces where you live. Conversely, the right solutions could make the rise of prosumers a decisive factor in reaching our goals for a common, green transition – without affecting the residential roads.

To briefly don the sales cap, prosumers are among the consumers who can benefit from True Energy’s solutions. Together, we can become an unofficial association for preserving residential roads and promoting the green transition.

From electricity consumer to prosumer

Prosumers are individuals or groups who participate in producing a product or service that they use. It is especially widespread in software, but increasingly also a phenomenon in the electricity industry.

Most people will probably think of solar cells on the roof of someone’s house and household wind turbines, but the consumer group is much broader. For example, it may include entire urban areas where energy is produced, consumed, imported, and exported via ‘micro-grids.’

Denmark is a leading country when it comes to renewable energy. In 2019, almost three-quarters of electricity production came from carbon-neutral sources, such as solar, wind, and biomass. While wind turbines owned by major utilities and producers dominate, household wind turbines, cooperatively owned turbines, and private, household solar panels also contribute heavily. Solar cells currently account for almost three percent of Danes’ total electricity consumption. That is an increase of over 900% in just six to seven years. Many of the solar panels are located on private rooftops. According to Energinet, there were 106,461 solar panel systems in Denmark (a country with approximately 5.5 million inhabitants) at the end of September 2019.

The increasing number of private [small] electricity producers – i.e., prosumers – can play a decisive role in whether Denmark achieves its ambitious climate goals, including becoming a fully carbon-neutral society.

The Danes’ increasing home-production of electricity leads to new opportunities, but also new challenges. The fact that the electricity increasingly runs both ways in the grid and we use electricity for more and more things – e.g., our cars – means that the electricity grid may need an extensive expansion. In other words, excavators will roll onto the country’s residential roads to dig down many more new, expensive energy cables.

Committed consumers want the green transition

As is the case for ambitious climate targets and changing energy production patterns, the growing number of prosumers is not a Danish phenomenon, but a worldwide trend.

Climate-conscious, committed consumers everywhere demand insight into and freedom to choose products and production methods that match their values. This applies, among other things, to electricity.

A study on customers’ motives for participating in a project introducing flexible electricity consumption equipment on the Danish island of Bornholm, called EcoGrid, showed that people’s reasons included:

  • To avoid waste of resources
  • To save money on the electricity bill.
  • To investigate and explore electricity consumption
  • To support the green transition

National and regional ambitions match consumers’ enthusiasm for green energy and insight into where electricity comes from. For example, Denmark is planning to rapidly increase the number of electric cars. To help reach the targets, Aarhus recently announced that it is aiming for a minimum of 40% electric cars before the end of 2030. Today, the figure is less than one percent.

Prosumers as a buffer in the electricity grid

To achieve our common climate goals, we need new ways of controlling our electricity consumption. Suppose all the coming electric cars have to be charged while we are cooking dinner on our electric stoves. Consumption could quickly exceed production. Sudden changes in electricity consumption can, in other cases, create the need for some kind of buffer to ensure continuous delivery of power to everyone’s’ mains. Last but not least, the production of electricity from renewable sources can fluctuate unpredictably – and rapidly.

Flexible electricity prices are intended as part of the solution to meet these challenges. But using electricity when it is cheapest (and most often climate-friendly) can mean that the alarm clock must be set to three o’clock in the morning to start charging the electric car.

To avoid these challenges – not to mention inconveniences – there is a need to find ways to engage and inform consumers about their electricity consumption – and find ways to automate consumption so that it corresponds to the individual’s values and goals. These are among the things we want to achieve with True Energy’s Big Battery and Local Battery systems.

Both solutions enable you to turn electric car batteries into a buffer that supports the energy grid by starting and stopping charging. It can either be a fast-reacting buffer that can help overcome sudden fluctuations in electricity consumption or production or a longer-term consumption regulation. The latter includes delaying charging the electric car until demand is lower – often the middle of the night. In all cases, electricity producers and the electricity grid get more flexibility and access to a buffer, which can, for example, reduce the use of backup generators that often run on oil or gas.

Automatic insight and planning of electricity consumption

Another of True Energy’s solutions is True Solar, which allows households to optimize the use of the solar energy they produce. Other of our solutions focus on the use of electric equipment such as washing machines and dishwashers.

Common to all is that it is about finding ways to make your electricity use more interactive and/or automatic, so it matches your preferences – whether it is to make energy consumption as green or cheap as possible. Putting power into the hands of the consumer and prosumer, as it were. With True Energy, that power to automate and control it does literally rest in your hands through our app, which enables you to manage all our solutions directly from your smartphone.

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