25 February 2017

Case study

Switching on, and off, can make our energy system cheaper and greener

Find out how Tarmac is using demand response to help manage the electricity grid

Switching on, and off, can make our energy system cheaper and greener

Throughout the year, the electricity grid experiences a series of spikes in power demand as millions across Britain tune in to watch their favourite soap or sporting event, and put the kettle on during the advert breaks. Responding to these spikes rapidly is critical to ensure the grid is balanced and the lights don’t go out. More renewables coming on to the network also means that more fluctuations in generation are likely to occur.

One solution is the use of demand side response (DSR) technology. National Grid has identified DSR as a key solution for future proofing the UK’s electricity grid, announcing plans to invest up to £400 million to meet between 30 to 50% of the grid’s balancing requirements from the demand side by 2020.

This technology allows consumers (the ‘demand-side’) to change how and when they use electricity to free up capacity for the overall grid. It does this by freeing up electricity that can be used to balance spikes in demand, avoiding the need to rely on additional power stations that would normally swing into action during peak times.

Tarmac started contributing to DSR at the beginning of 2015 working with Open Energiand by April 2016 had installed systems on over 200 bitumen tanks at 70 asphalt plans across the UK.  What this means is the heating elements in each of those tanks, which keep the bitumen warm, can switch on or off in seconds to help National Grid balance electricity supply and demand. Collectively the tanks are providing the grid with capacity that can be moved in real-time: they are able to use more when there is a surplus – for example when it’s particularly windy - and less when there’s a shortfall. DSR technology is empowering energy users to take an active role in transforming how the UK energy system works by automatically adjusting power consumption to help manage fluctuations in electricity supply and demand.

It means Tarmac is helping to build a smarter, more responsive energy system which is paving the way for more renewable power and reducing the nation’s reliance on fossil fuelled power stations.

Dr Martyn Kenny, Sustainability Director at Tarmac said: “Our construction solutions are used across the UK to create the infrastructure around us. As such, we recognise the importance of contributing to its overall sustainability. DSR technology helps us do just that. By managing our energy demand more smartly we are supporting the delivery of the UK’s carbon reduction targets.”