Residential demand-side response in the UK: maximising consumer uptake and response


Residential demand-side response (DSR) is a key strategy for meeting the challenges facing the UK electricity system. Leveraging residential flexibility should help to enhance system reliability, reduce carbon emissions, support the integration of renewables into the energy mix and deliver a lower-cost electricity system. However, the viability of residential DSR hinges on two critical factors: consumers will first need to switch to DSR programmes in sufficient numbers and then respond by changing consumption patterns accordingly.
The research presented in this seminar explores how the impact of residential DSR might be optimised by examining the enablers and constraints of uptake and response. While participation in such programmes is primarily encouraged through financial incentives, studies suggest that some consumers may be willing to participate for non-financial reasons. As such, how environmental and pro-social motivations could be leveraged to help promote uptake and response was also examined.
UK consumer preferences for different programme models were first explored through a large-scale online survey to identify measures which could help to maximise uptake. Since many consumers were found to prefer information-only DSR, the potential afforded by such programmes was tested through a trial based on available wind generation.
The findings reveal that information-only DSR programmes may represent a significant untapped resource. Approximately 8% of a representative sample of UK consumers indicated a preference for this model over more conventional price-based programmes; while trial households successfully reduced electricity consumption by 9.9% on average when asked to consume less and increased consumption by 4.4% on average when asked to consume more. These promising findings may help to inform policy and programme design as the UK energy system evolves towards a renewables-based future.
Matt Gross is a 4th year PhD researcher at SPRU. His PhD project is part of the Autonomic Power Systems Project a multi-university and industry collaboration which examines the development of the UK electricity network from now until 2050.